DVD/Blu Ray

The Valiant Ones (12) |Home Ents Review

Dir. King Hu, Hong Kong/Taiwan, 1975, 106 mins, subtitled

Cast: Roy Chiao, Wing Bai, Feng Hsu, Ying-Chieh Han, Sammo Hung

Review by Colin Dibben 

There are only 3 ‘wuxia’ or Chinese heroic swordplay films you really need to see and this is one of them. The Valiant Ones sees the master of wuxia cinema, King Hu (also responsible for the other 2 must-see films, Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen), tightening up his signature style while keeping the finished product utterly spellbinding. 

The setting is similar to Jimmy Wang Yu’s 1973 epic Beach of the War Gods. During the Ming dynasty, Japanese pirates are marauding along China’s southern coast. A maverick general (Chiao) gets a husband and wife team (Bai, Hsu) to take on a particularly nefarious pirate Hakatatsu (Hung) and his Chinese minion (Han). 

The actors will all look familiar to you if you know Hu’s work. Sammo Hung is the new addition – he also choreographed the fight scenes, even though swordplay isn’t his usual thing. Wing Bai is on great form as the nonchalant swordsman; Feng Hsu doesn’t say very much at all, but still slashes her way through piratical scumbags in the fight scenes. 

Hu’s long and lovely, gliding tracking shots are much in evidence in the fight scenes, but so are flurries of very fast, up-close editing – something I had not noticed in his films before. The editing is so abrupt and stylised that, as Tony Rayns mentions in an extra, Hu here prefigures the influential style of Tsui Hark by a decade. 

Why is Hu a talent to get excited about? These are genre films after all, right? 

Hu is, for me, the Kenji Mizoguchi of action cinema. I can’t imagine not being transfixed, exhilarated and both intellectually and emotionally satisfied by anything he set up, filmed and edited. This applies to the full-tilt action films as well as to the more contemplative, spiritual movies, with their lingering landscape shots.  

It is unreservedly apt for Eureka to bring out this film – and 5 others by Hu – as part of their Masters of Cinema brand. This is what masterful cinema looks like. Immaculate. 


The Valiant Ones is out on Blu-ray and 4K UHD on 27 May 2024.