The Deadly Knives, also known as Fists of Vengeance, is a 1972 Shaw Brothers kung fu film starring Shaw veteran Ling Yun.
Set in the early days before the Second Sino-Japanese War, the college sweethearts, Yan Zi Fei (Ling) and his fiancée, Guan Yue Hua (Li Ching) are returning home from Shanghai to Yan's hometown. The wealthy Yan family, who deals in property development, is facing territorial dispute against the rival Guan family, not helped by the invading Japanese forces - led by the tycoon Ogawa, affiliated with local Yakuza kingpin Ishikawa - who had their eyes on a nearby forest which is the Yan family's ancestral land and prized heritage. What makes matters worse is that before Yan can tie the knot with his sweetheart, he ends up discovering his adoptive younger sister, Chiao-chiao, have feelings for him as well. And with the revelation of a traitor in their family who had sided with the Japanese, everything's going to hell...
It's really no coincidence that this film is released roughly the same time as Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury, is it?
Ling Yun will partake in yet another Shaw film set during the Sino-Japanese war, Heroes of the Underground, the following year.
Contains examples of:
- Badass in a Nice Suit: Yan Zi Fei kicks plenty of ass while wearing a slick business suit.
- Bald of Evil: Ishikawa, the Yakuza lead enforcer and the boss of Ogawa.
- Barefoot Captives: Chiao-chiao, after waking up in Ogawa's quarters. Keep in mind she still have her socks on prior to being knocked unconscious in the big battle scene.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Yan Zi Fei, all the time. In his first scene while he's making out with Yue Hua, he witnessed a bunch of Japanese punks forcing themselves on a couple of girls, with most of the passengers too afraid to do anything, and Yan's response is to march up to the Japanese and beat the snot out of them.
- Damsel in Distress: Chiao-chiao, after being captured by Ogawa's henchmen.
- Dirty Coward: In the final battle, when the Yakuzas start dying left and right as Yan Zi Fei goes on a rampage, Ogawa, the main baddie responsible for most of the mess in the film, quickly makes a run while Yan Zi Fei is busy duelling the Yakuza chief, Ishikawa. He only made it as far as the back exit, but is knifed In the Back before he can leave.
- Face–Heel Turn: Xu Qian, the younger adopted son of the Yan family.
- Flirty Step Siblings: A one-way version, with Chiao-chiao having feelings for her older stepbrother, Yan Zi Fei, while Xu Qian have feelings for his stepsister, Chiao-chiao. The latter two are both orphans adopted by the Yan family, by the way.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Kau, the faithful sidekick of Yan Zi Fei, purposely allows himself to be gunned down by Ishikawa, to allow Yan an opening to chuck his knives into the main villain.
- High-School Sweethearts: Yan Zi Fei and Guan Yue Hua first met in their college in Shanghai.
- Human Shield: In the final battle, Yan Zi Fei use a Yakuza enforcer as a shield when Ogawa tries lunging at him with a katana.
- Imagine Spot: In a rather out-of-place moment, there is a scene of Xu Qian imagining Chiao-chiao sleeping completely naked, and also the implications that he played with himself that night before marching to her bedroom and confronting his feelings for her.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Averted, the Japanese side favours using katanas, but they're not much stronger than the BFS used by the Chinese side. But played straight when the hero, Yan Zi Fei, gets his hands on one and starts slicing up Ishikawa's mooks.
- Les Collaborateurs: Boss Guan, the immediate rival to the Yan family, deliberately sold out his country to the Japanese mob led by Ishikawa and Ogawa in exchange for power and territorial control.
- Love Triangle: Yan Zi Fei and his sweetheart, Guan Yue Hua, are planning to be married after returning from Shanghai, but Yan finds out his adoptive sister, Chiao-chiao, has feelings for him as he got home. But that was only a relatively minor subplot that was quickly pushed aside when the Yan family gets embroiled in a war against Boss Guan and his Japanese collaborators.
- Mexican Standoff: The final duel culminates with Yan Zi Fei and the main villain, Ishikawa, both of them heavily injured from the battle, staring down each other, Yan holding his throwing knives and Ishikawa whipping out a concealed pistol, each indecisive on when to attack each other. It culminates with Yan's partner, Kau, suddenly leaping into the direction of Ishikawa's pistol and absorbing multiple bullets, dying on the spot. At which point Yan hurls his knives and kills Ishikawa.
- Not Blood Siblings: This is why Chiao-chiao has feelings for Yan Zi Fei, even though she's only his adopted younger sister. Unfortunately, their adopted younger brother, Xu Qian, have feelings for her, making the relationship subplot more complicated than it should.
- Not Good with Rejection: Xu Qian, who after being rejected from having a relationship with his stepsister, decides to sell out his family to Boss Guan and the Japanese mobsters.
- One-Man Army: Yan Zi Fei goes on a brutal one-man rampage against the Yakuza, taking plenty of names in the process.
- Rape as Drama: Halfway through the film, the abducted Chiao-chiao was raped by Ogawa to the point of becoming unconscious, before getting rescued. She wakes up later, but has become mute due to being shell-shocked from the incident.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: See what Ogawa did to Chiao-chiao for reference (one line above).
- Rape Leads to Insanity: Poor Chiao-chiao... she never recovers even until the credits, by the way.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After Xu-Qian sold out the Yan family who adopted him to the villains, in exchange for money, power, and a forced romance from his adoptive sister, he is quickly rewarded by a katana through his gut.
- Yakuza: The Japanese villains led by Ogawa are implied to be these.