Directed by Robert Jefferson and Robert Samuels
Action Director: Robert Samuels (H.K.S.A.)
Starring: Robert Samuel, Sharif Anael-Bey and Andre Duza
When I heard about the coming of Shadow Fist, I got extremely excited! First, I know the quality of Sifu Robert Samuels’ work and his dedication to the arts. When I began to read more about this project, I became more and more enthralled with the concept: an homage to Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest and the days when shaky-cam didn’t exist. It was a time when shapes (to borrow from my European friends lingo for good form) and attention to “styles” mattered. Add to the mix co-director Robert Jefferson (Made in Chinatown), Hung Gar Master Sharif Aneal-Bey (My Asian Auntie) and the highly-skilled Andre Duza, and I knew we were in for a modern classic.
Plot: During a heated duel between Dragon Chan (Robert Samuels) and Tiger Lu (Andre Duza), the powerful Iron Bridge Chen (Sharif Anael-Bey) interjects and challenges both men to a test of skills.
Review: As a fan of classic kung fu cinema such as Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest productions, I often find myself comparing modern fight scenes to these timeless displays of kung fu and artistry. Oftentimes, I am disappointed in the bigger-budget productions that often rely on the modern conventions of quick-cut and heavily edited shaky-cam. With Shadow Fist, I was taken back to the glory days of Hong Kong classic kung fu cinema! Action director and African-American Hong Kong movie pioneer Robert Samuels crafts intense, shape heavy fights that emphasize the forearm banging, quick hand techniques reminiscent of the days of skilled HK actors and stuntmen. The camera doesn’t shake or move. The actors move and the camera follows!
Let’s examine some of the elements we get:
- We are treated to the long bridge hand blocks and strikes of Hung Gar Kung Fu, of which Samuels is a master,
- We get a quick Wing Chun chi sao (sticky hands) sequence between Tiger Lu and Dragon Chan,
- We get to see animal styles such as Crane, Tiger and Snake,
- We are treated to the exchange of stances and leg work that calls to mind Lau Kar Leung choreography in Martial Club and Challenge of the Masters.
In addition, Samules uses the skills of his fellow actors to great effect. Andre Duza’s quick, close-quarter hand strikes are utilized well in his fight scenes and Hung Gar Master Sharif Anael-Bey’s (Iron Bridge Chen) powerful punches and tiger claws are in full motion. Plus, Samuels’ own expertise in Five Animals are weaved into the intricate choreography as well. Robert Samuels also handled the editing of the fights and we can see his emphasis on wide and mid-range angles to emphasize the particular techniques sequences and counter movements to make the fights flow with an intensity that surpasses many of the bigger budget features out today.
But for me, aside from the great form, the techniques and the old-school, HK-style rhythm of the fight scenes, two other very important touches stand out: the use of the Shaw Brothers music and the distinct Shaw-style sound effects! These elements put the finishing touches on a homage to the classics that any fan of old school HK kung fu movies will love!
Recommendation: Shadow Fist is much more than a simple tribute to old school classic kung fu movies. It, along with some other productions such as My Asian Auntie (also featuring Sharif Anael-Bey, Robert Samuels and Robert Jefferson), is a renaissance of quality filmmaking, where the emphasis is on artistic action that showcases the skill of the performers and the ingenuity of the director and action director. Shadow Fist is recommended viewing for classic kung fu movie fans and for fans of action cinema who have grown weary of generic shaky-cam fight scenes that have no style or substance. I am looking forward to the expansion of the Shadow Fist concept and want to see more of Robert Samuels, Sharif Anael-Bey and Andre Duza bringing that old school classic kung fu flavor back to our screens.