Rollicking martial arts epic from the ‘One-Armed Boxer’ himself, Jimmy Wang Yu, ‘Beach of the War Gods’ is a fantastic vehicle for its star and his supporting cast to showcase heaps of wickedly staged old-school fight action.
Jimmy Wang Yu is Hsia Feng, a wandering feudal warrior who walks into a Chinese coastal town that is under constant threat from the marauding Japanese. The citizens have given up hope of living a peaceful life and have made the decision to leave but when Feng dispatches a gang of Japanese soldiers with ruthless efficiency (and death by chopstick!), the townsfolk see a glimmer of hope. Sympathetic to the town’s plight, Feng decides to stay and help defend the village and rid them of the Japanese’s iron grip once and for all. Enlisting the fight skills of four other great warriors each with a weapons specialty (knife, sword, bladed spear, shield) the Magnificent Five, if you will, train the townsfolk to fight back leading to perhaps one of the most sustained and impressive battle sequences put to screen.
Heavily influenced by genre titan ‘Seven Samurai’, Jimmy Wang Yu puts his own spin on the classic tale of super warriors training a village to defend itself and delivers a fantastic fight-packed film. Lean of the plot (nothing wrong with that!), ‘Beach of the War Gods’ is nevertheless a satisfying fight epic that uses its town-under-siege setting well to stage an often-breathtaking mixture of fight and weapon styles. Each warrior gets a cool introduction fight to show off their particular skills and once the group unite and train the villagers to defend themselves, the last 40 minutes or so is just one giant set piece as the Japanese attack the beachside village and get absolutely slaughtered.
It’s breathless stuff mounted with sustained confidence that keeps the attention and excitement flowing by mixing in various Chinese and Japanese fighting styles. Very much weapon based, ‘Beach of the War Gods’ is a fantastic showcase for sword-based action. While Jimmy Wang Yu (who also writes and directs here) gets a boatload of fight action screentime the supporting cast gets some memorable moments especially Chang Yi-Kuai as Hung who uses two large steel shields as his weapon of choice. This leads to some creative fighting techniques and tactics as the usually defensive shields are used for offensive attacks and cool kills.
There will be the inevitable grumbles that plot and characterization are light but it’s not an issue for what is essentially a siege film about a group of characters battling their way out of a tough situation. Certainly, there could have been more training sequences to show the townsfolk getting to grips with fighting, as this aspect is somewhat rushed. However, the tension that is built for the big battle is palpable and the sheer verve with which the action/big battle is mounted with is commendable and still thrilling 50 years on. There is a distinct lack of female representation as the village only seems to be populated with men and the flick may always be in the shadow of Jimmy Wang Yu’s ‘One-Armed’ classics, but ‘Beach of the War Gods’ is some stellar old-school fight action that looks incredible in this new welcome Blu Ray release from Eureka.