April 30, 2013

Movie Review: Bamboo Gods and Iron Men

I think I may have just seen the ultimate red herring movie. No, it is not a movie about a fish, it has a fantastic dodge. The focus of the movie turns out to be a complete nothing. Think of it like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Do you remember what was in it or of it really even mattered? That is exactly what is going on here. Well, it has that and the fact that it is a wonderful mash up of blaxploitation and kungfusploitation. The movie is the oft forgotten gem Bamboo Gods and Iron Men. No, the title doesn't really describe the movie, but it certainly is catchy, right?

Cal Jefferson (James Iglehart) and his wife (Shirley Washington) are on their honeymoon, an Asian getaway. Well, before that we meet a man a hundred years in the past with something that will help rule the world. It is hidden inside a Buddha and promptly disappears. It reappears in 1974 and wouldn't you know it, becomes an integral part of our honeymoon tale.

The happy couple are sold a Buddha statue as a novelty for a cheap price, they have it sent up to their room. As they carry on about their business, a mute local happens across an attempted rape. He intervenes and gets tossed in the river for his troubles. Fortunately, Cal just happens to be there to save him. After some comical misunderstanding, we learn that the mute, Charley (actually, Chow Lee played by Chiquito), has sworn his life to Cal.

Well, they move on to Manila where they happen across a bad guy who knows the secret of the Buddha. After a couple scrapes with the local thugs, Cal and Charley become buddies, teaching each other how to fight, Cal is a big time boxer after all.

I don't really want to I've it all away, but it s a lot of fun to watch these people, including a bumbling police chief, continuously ask Cal about the Buddha and what may be in it. Of course, he has no idea about its contents. Everything leads up to a big final confrontation where all is revealed.

There is something about this movie that is really quite good. It is certainly a low budget exercise with nothing in the way of recognizable faces. The acting is not terribly great and the fights lack in the execution, but there is still something that rings true. Te relationships all feel natural and real, especially the chemistry between Iglehart and Washington, it is very easy to believe them as a real couple. Just watch them and try not to believe it. The fights are fun, especially the one at the massage parlor.

Bamboo Gods and Iron Men is finely executed exploitation fare. It has all the right elements and is genuinely entertaining. I mean, I saw where the story was going, except for that final reveal, so it was all about a more pure entertainment experience. It delivers the goods.


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