Steve at Chopsticks On Fire recommended I watch the 1974 Hong Kong -based Hammer film called “Shatter” aka “Call Him Mr. Shatter”. We are still friends though.
I’m not going to make you read about metaphors, the fourth wall, or obscure cinematic references that make me look smart. In exchange for this tender mercy, I will make you read a long synopsis.
But look at it this way: after reading this, Hong Kong film fans will never actually have to watch “Shatter”. My synopsis tells all you really need to know about the film while protecting you from the Stuart Whitman parts. You’re welcome! Okay, ready?
Professional assassin Shatter (Whitman) arrives in Hong Kong for some reason. He is easily beaten about the head by dudes who are scummy because they use guns.
Ti Lung appears and saves Shatter out of the goodness of his heart. For being some kind of kick-ass assassin, Shatter seems pretty useless at defending himself. He also drinks a lot.
Soon after, Shatter is pretty impressed when he sees Ti Lung practicing noble kung fu with fellow mouh gwun brother Fung Hak On. Put yourself in Shatter’s dumb American shoes and you’d be impressed too.
Shatter finally does one smart thing: he asks Ti Lung to help him. Not too long after that, Shatter gets yanked out of his car like a not-very-professional assassin. Ti Lung has to save him from Yen Shi Kuan.
But then, oh dear, while Shatter is standing around, Ti Lung is fighting a bunch more guys all by himself and has to channel Bruce Lee. Cause that’s what Hammer wanted.
At this point I have to wonder where Shatter got his kick-ass reputation because it’s pretty obvious that Ti Lung is the smart capable one. I admit I fast-forwarded through most of the dialogue so maybe I missed something. But I think I can watch cliches like “You’ll be a free man… if you can stay alive” at 1.5x or 2x speed and not miss anything, don’t you?
During a silly match between kung fu, karate and muay thai stylists, referee Lee Hoi San calms one of my favorite Shaw villains Keung Hon, who plays a silly Japanese fighter rather well. Too bad Shaw never let Keung do comedy.
After kicking three guys’ asses in the competition, Ti Lung wipes two beads of sweat off his face and has to immediately save Shatter again. Shatter’s been drinking with Li Li Li all night and is totally oblivious to danger.
And then there’s a kinda fun fight scene. Hey look, it’s Sunny!
…and then even more fun: Alan Chan Kwok Kuen appears.
And wait a minute, why is Fung Hak On fighting his mouh gwun brother Ti Lung? Oh my gosh, did he betray him? Naah, he’s just doubling up on the roles.
We shouldn’t just assume Hammer thought they could get away with using Fung twice because “they all look alike”. He does double duty in Shaw films too. I hope he got double the paycheck.
MIDDLE OF ACT TWO
Ti Lung’s English accent, which may or may not be dubbed, is excellent. But Hammer couldn’t resist the cheap stereotype jokes. Would you like some disgusting Chinese food? No? Why not?
Rim Shot. Sad Trombone.
And then something really really horrible happens.
Obviously revolted by this sight, Ti Lung does what any guy would do when he discovers the foreign devil sleeping with his women: he tells Shatter that guns are obscene.
And for some reason he saves Shatter. Again.
I’d like to think that Ti Lung has a really good reason to keep saving Shatter but he doesn’t. At this point in the film, the only thing that will keep you from throwing your dvd player off the balcony is the star-studded Hong Kong cast.
The climax quickly arrives, and Ti Lung saves Shatter AGAIN. How is this even possible?
He fights a whole roomful of baddies. There’s Lau Kar Wing! Neato!
During this not-very-climactic climax fight, Ti Lung gets shot in the dramatically effective yet non-lethal injury zone (the arm). He manages to beat Lau Kar Wing to death with his one good arm and squeeze in one last involuntary Bruce Lee pose.
After Ti Lung and the boozer watch the evil bosses fall from a high window to their mannequin-y death, Ti Lung has to show Shatter how to get out of the room.
At the very end of the movie Peter Cushing gives a lot of money to Shatter, who walks away with Ti Lung. Shatter was supposed to split the money with him but I didn’t see it happen and I don’t trust guys like Whitman. Come on Hammer, Ti Lung deserves all the money. He did all the work while Shatter sat around drinking and looking foggily at Li Li Li. The moral of this story seems to be that ineffectual loser Imperialists have the natural right to profit off the blood, sweat and tears of the workers. Dammit Hammer, don’t make me go all Marxist on your ass.
In my own alternative happy ending, Ti Lung did a little gachaaaaak on Shatter, stuffed his corpse into Anthony Wong’s meat grinder, and walked away with all the money.
Now that you have a synopsis of the stuff that matters – the wonderful Hong Kong cast and their fight scenes – I’ll just throw this little postscript idea into the ring:
Oh for Christ’s sake what were they thinking? I’m completely done with you, Hammer.