Directed by Ng See Yeun and starring Taekwondo martial art master Hwang Jang Lee, “Invincible Armour” is set in rural ancient China during the Ming Dynasty where a corrupt high-ranking Ming general (Lee) frames Chow Lu Fong (John Liu) for the murder of a noted dignitary.
Fong goes on the run, trying to clear his name and uncover the identity of the assassin. Along his way, Fong uncovers that the true assassin is a member of a criminal gang hired by Lee himself to discredit his brother from taking power, a hermit who retreated to the foothills and mountains of China to set up a secret sect; one that employed the very assassin paid by Lee to kill the dignitary.
Discredited, Fong’s brother tries to take on the evil Jang Lee, but is no match against his infamous Iron Armour technique, a technique that can resist any form of attack – to make things worse, Lee is a master of the deadly “Eagle’s Claw” technique.
After killing his brother, Lee’s insidious plot to overthrow the Ming dynasty and replace it with one under his rule can take place, but first he must get rid of both Liu and the corrupt law enforcer tracking him down.
Liu is forced to take shelter in a young boy’s home and finds out the boy is a descendant of a grand master; one that once had both Hwang Lee and his brother as students – however the grand master was killed by the ambitious Lee forcing both the brother, and his younger sister went into hiding, fearing for their lives.
Liu finds out that the young boy knows the Iron Armour technique, and learns the tactics of “Iron Armour”; including the “Iron Finger”, which can penetrate the “Iron Armour”.
Once learning the secrets of the Iron Armour, Liu takes on Hwang Lee; joined by the corrupt law enforcer who uncovers evidence that Lee is somehow involved in the murder.
The team of Liu and the law enforcer take on Hwang Lee; and ultimately put to bed the evil Hwang Lee and his dreams and thirst for power.
Invincible Armour is indeed a classic of the genre, a 1970’s kung fu movie complete with all the necessary ingredients, a near-invincible white haired super villain, a protagonist who must reclaim honour; and a vigorous training scene.
Of all white haired super villain showcases, I believe this isn’t as good as the Silver Fox trilogy that Hwang Lee went on to star in, nor is it as good as the Carter Wong tour de force that is “Born Invincible”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable or rewarding to watch.
In this movie, the kung fu is fast and incredibly enjoyable; the plot although confusing at times, is believable and interesting – there isn’t any soppy love story or background story – it gets to the action very quickly and there is quite a lot considering it was obviously made with no money.
“Invincible Armour” contains all the non-stop action and unintentional laughs one would expect from a B-Kung Fu movie; including a great allegory which involves a pair of eggs and a fist being clenched at one’s family jewels. It also has a small part for future Hong Kong star Yuen Biao.
What makes the movie work so well, is that at the core “INVINCIBLE ARMOUR” is a really a conspiracy film. The audience witnesses the plot unfolds through the perspective of the main characters, which are all pawns in a much bigger scheme. Yuen brilliantly plays up the relationship between the characters, including Hwang Jang Li and Philip Ko in the guise of rival brothers.
What I didn’t like was that often people jumped into the scene without any explanation whatsoever, especially during a fight. In the final sequence all the main heroes of the movie jump into the scene one after the other, but how did they know when or where to come to? There is also a scene where the real murder has run away and sometime later the hero must find him, and then we cut to the murder running through a forest and suddenly the hero is there; how did he know where he was?
Despite the wealth of weapons that appear visually on the screen, very few are used. Even in the final scene where Liu faces Hwang in his private mansion there are shields, staffs and swords; but they only make a rare appearance – if Liu really wanted him dead they should have picked up the tension, added more and more weapons, and increased the urgency, but it didn’t happen.
Invincible Armour is an excellent 1970’s kung fu classic and definitely recommended; the addition of familiar stock music and English-dubbed voices makes this a reliable old school martial arts movie.
It doesn’t push genre boundaries, but it’s enjoyable to watch.
Link: Invincible Armour (IMDB)