Operation Scorpio (1992)

Reviewed by Steven Neal
September 13, 2014

 

MOVIE INFO
CAST
Chin Ka-Lok • Liu Chia-Liang • May Lo Mei-Mei • Kim Won-Jin • Wu Fung • Victor Hon Kwan • David Lo Dai-Wai • Frankie Chan Chi-Leung • Yuen Shun-Yi
Aka
The Scorpion King
DIRECTOR
David Lai Dai-Wai
CHOREOGRAPHER(S)
Yuen Tak • Liu Chia-Liang • Corey Yuen Kwai
YEAR RELEASED
1992
MOVIE SOURCE
Version reviewed was in widescreen format. English Dubbed.
Purchase & Info
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PlOT
Yushu is a daydreaming adolescent who spends his free-time drawing comics, when he should be paying attention in class. When his fantasizing gets him in trouble with his teacher, Yushu is expelled from school. Unable to live with the injustice that surrounds him from the slave trade that he sees every day, Yushu has dreams of becoming a crime-fighter who uses martial arts to protect the small and the meek from the rich and corrupt who cause trouble in his small hometown every day. However, Yushu soon gets his opportunity to be a champion of justice when he and his grumpy father rescue a slave-girl named Jade from the lustful advances of the wealthy and sleazy Mr. Wang. After hiding out at the restaurant of pacifist noodle chef Master Yee, Yushu decides to take a stand against corruption and to learn martial arts. After Mr. Wang’s henchmen wreck his restaurant, Master Yee finally says enough is enough and decides to aid Yushu in his crusade by teaching him the art of ‘noodles kung fu’. After much arduous training, Yushu and Master Yee are ready to take the fight back to the enemy and Yushu himself will need every skill he has at his disposal when he must face off against Sonny Wang, Mr. Wang’s only son and bodyguard who is a master of the notorious ‘Scorpion Technique’ of kung fu. Will Yushu and Master Yee prevail in their battle to end slavery and corruption in their village? Or will they too fall victim to the awesome kicking power of the dreaded Scorpion King?
thoughts on the movie

When I started collecting kung fu films, this movie fell first in my list of collectibles. Eric Jacobus (from the Stunt People action team) gave this movie such high reviews and I decided to purchase a copy based on what he described on his website. Needless to say, Eric knows his martial arts films because Operation Scorpio was a treat to behold. The cinematography was beautiful, the story was so-so and it gave interesting themes about standing up for what’s right and how one person can make a difference given the proper training and wisdom. Operation Scorpio has a lot going for it and the fight choreography definitely moves the story along and I found myself rooting for the good guys in this film (although I rooted for the main villain of the story a little bit too because he had some outrageous fighting skills in this flick).

was it funny?
Operation Scorpio does have some light-humored moments in it, but the movie borders more along the lines of adventure-drama than comedy.
How was the Action?

The action was splendid. Although, there were moments in the movie where wire-fu was used but the good thing is that the choreographer and stunt coordinators didn’t rely solely on wires alone. They allowed the martial artists to showcase what they knew on their own without wires and that alone made the movie all the more enjoyable to watch. Some of the fights in this movie have to be seen to be believed, as words alone can’t describe just how good some of the stage combat was in this movie. There’s also a moment in the movie where Chin Kar Lok and Liu Chia Liang’s characters are cooking noodles together and the writers of the story show that martial arts exist in everything we do whether it’s cooking, cleaning, getting ready to go to work or getting ready for bed. Kung Fu is everywhere, we just have to look hard enough to see it.

Standout performance(s)

I’m guessing Hong Kong stuntman Chin Kar Lok wanted a breakout role to be in as he usually gets the part of stunt coordinator or fight choreographer for some films. Here though, he gets top billing playing Yushu, the good-natured young scholar who spends more time drawing and daydreaming than he does focusing on class. I don’t really think this role fit him too well and Chin Kar doesn’t really get to fight much until later in the movie, instead bonding with his costar May Lo who plays slave-girl Jade. Chin Kar’s portrayal of Yushu was very heartwarming and he really put a lot of effort into playing the character, but there were times that his character came off rather bland. None the less, he gave it his all and he definitely deserves an ‘A’ for effort but gets a ‘C+’ for execution.

The late Liu Chia-Liang gets to showcase some of his Hung Gar skills in this movie playing noodle chef Master Yee. Liu’s portrayal of Master Yee was interesting as his character is a pacifist who despises violence but at the same time can’t stand to see innocents suffer. When the bad guys push their luck too far, Liu’s character steps up to the plate and prepares to strike back with his apprentice Yushu and Yushu himself learns a secret about who his master really is and why the enemy shouldn’t press their luck with him. Liu’s character is a wise man with a willingness to help anybody who gets into trouble and the way he and Chin Kar bond in this movie is magical.

But truth be told, the real standout performance in Operation Scorpio is Korean taekwondo stylist and wushu practitioner Kim Won Jin with his portrayal of Sonny Wang. Honest to God, Kim does things in this movie that will make your jaw drop to the floor. His acrobatics are astonishing and coupled with his kicking ability, the casting directors made a great choice in putting him in the role of Sonny the Scorpion King. Sonny is a nasty character when someone messes with his disabled father and he’ll kick the head off of anyone who harms his dear old dad. At times, I found it hard not to root for Sonny because he was a villain but the way he fights in this film is truly phenomenal! Kim was like one part Yuen Biao and one part Hwang Jang Lee in this picture. Many people like myself all said that Kim should have had the part of Yushu more than Chin Kar Lok because when you see the way Kim fights in this story, you’ll agree that Kim should’ve been the hero. It’s really a shame that Kim didn’t become a major star after his performance in Operation Scorpio but to this day, his portrayal of Sonny Wang is the most talked about character when brought up for discussion.

Watch or Pass
6 Reasons Why You Should WATCH or PASS On This Movie
1. WATCH if you’re a fan of Chin Kar Lok or Liu Chia Liang.
2. WATCH if you’re a fan of the great Kim Won Jin.
3. WATCH if you like a kung fu story about fighting to end injustice.
4. PASS if you don’t like a story with sappy drama (some people may not like the times when the movie gets dramatic).
5. PASS if you think Chin Kar Lok does better doing stunts than playing the lead.
6. PASS if period martial arts pieces aren’t your thing.
FINAL NOTES

Operation Scorpio was a fun adventure-drama and the producers really pushed their creativity to the limits in this one. Kim Won Jin is probably the only real reason to buy this movie or rent it, but I think everyone else did a decent job also. Though the film has it’s cons, it’s still enjoyable if you focus more on the pros and try not to take it too seriously. If you like Kim Won Jin though, this movie is worthy of keeping in your collection.

RATING