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Film / Four Riders

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Four Riders, also known as Hellfighters of the East, is a 1972 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Movie directed by Chang Cheh, starring David Chiang, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan-tai and Wang Chung. Oddly enough, despite being one of the usual "Chang Cheh directs, David Chiang and Ti Lung acts" output from the 1970s, the film is actually one of their few collaborations which isn't a wuxia-style historical period piece. It's also notable for being one of the studio's few films that was filmed overseas, in this case in Seoul.

The year is 1953, shortly after the Korean War. In a military base in the Korean-border, Sergeant Feng-xia (Ti Lung) and Private Gao Yin-Han (Wang Chung) decides to flee the base and make a move towards the big city, hoping for a quick break from military duty. Meeting up with Private Gao's friend, Li Wei-Shi (Chen Kuan-tai) who is currently off-duty due to being hospitalized, and Jin-yi (David Chiang), another soldier who went AWOL weeks earlier, the quartet unexpectedly stumbles into the operations of a drug smuggling ring involving the Yakuza.


Action ensues. And everyone gets to beat the snot out of numerous faceless mooks before the credits start rolling.

Four Tropers:

  • The Alcoholic: Jin-yi is a heavy drinker who spends most of his scenes, including his intro, drinking heavily in bars and pubs.
  • Badass Crew: The titular four riders, of course.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The Yakuza leader (played by Yasuaki Kurata) spends every scene in a slick black suit with red tie, even in the final battle against the four. His underlings in comparison tends to wear casual shirts and jeans instead.
  • Bar Brawl: Jin-yi in one solo fight scene had him beating up the mafia's thugs (Led by Andre Maruis) in the pub he frequently drinks at. And winning.
  • The Cavalry: The local Korean police that arrives at the conclusion of the final fight... unfortunately, they arrive with the intent to killing everyone that's not dead by the end of the battle. That includes the four.
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  • Destination Defenestration: More than one random mook in the final gym fight ends up getting decked out of the building's window by the four, mostly by Wei-shi and Feng-xia.
  • Downer Ending: For the Four Riders: right after killing most of the bad guys, including the Yakuza Big Bad, and suffering two casualties in the process, the police arrives and kills everyone else in the gym that is not yet dead.
  • Four Is Death: All four main characters are badass killing machines. And neither of them outlives the credits.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The four main characters:
    • Sanguine: Jin-yi (David Chiang), the happy-go-lucky extrovert,
    • Chloleric: Li Wei-shi (Chen Kuan-tai), being prone to anger and outbursts.
    • Melancholic: Feng-xia (Ti Lung), the brooding one who behaves like an introvert.
    • Phlegmatic: Gao Yin-Han (Wang Chung), the fun-loving, patient member of the team who's shown to be a Friend to All Children early in his introduction.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: All four of the main characters prefers using fists in their battles, and they're damn good at it.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: During the bar fight, Jin-yi gets to use glass bottles as weapons against punks.
  • Improvised Weapon: During the gym fight in the finale, Wei-shi and Feng-xia both use weights and dumbbells to beat up multiple mooks.
  • Kill 'Em All: This being a Chang Cheh film, that's hardly a surprise that literally none of the named characters are alive by the end of he film.
  • Oddball in the Series: Among the series of films featuring Shaw Brothers' "Golden Trio" of the 70s (directed by Chang Cheh, starring Ti Lung and David Chiang), this movie is the only one that isn't a period piece, but a military-themed action film set in the 1950s. And although the Deadly Duo of 70s Shaw Brothers cinema, Ti Lung and David Chiang, gets to co-star alongside each other, however unlike their past collaborations over here they didn't interact with each other as much, with David Chiang spending most scenes alone and Ti Lung interacting with lesser-known actor Wang Chung instead.
  • Power Fist: One scene had the Yakuza enforcer beating up an unfortunate victim to death using a set of pointed brass knuckles.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Feng-xia is shown to be smoking in his first scene, and he's supposed to look cool (being played by Ti Lung and all that).