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Film / The Savage Five

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It's like Seven Samurai, without the samurai!

The Savage Five is a 1973 Shaw Brothers film directed by Chang Cheh, starring all of Chang's regulars - David Chiang, Chen Kuan-tai, Ti Lung, Wong Chung and Danny Lee - as the eponymous quartet.

A gang of bandits, in the aftermath of raiding a government-owned vault, arrives in the outskirts of a rural town, hauling behind them a locked, metal chest full of silver, which they have looted from the authorities. Holding the entire town hostage, the bandit leader demands forces the benevolent locals whom weren't prone to violence at all, into giving them refuge, as well as ordering the village's blacksmith to unlock the chest of silver for them, as the bandit capable of unlocking chests was killed during the robbery. A limit of seven days is given, and should the villagers fail to open the chest, the bandits will then kill everyone to cover their tracks.

Amongst the villagers, however, a number of hidden experts and martial artists have decided to take matter in their own hands. Nope, they're not leaving to seek help - which would be impossible anyways. Instead, they are going to fight back - five of them, including Fang Yi Fei (Ti Lung) the drunk, Chen Deng (David Chiang) the pickpocket, Ma Dao (Chen Kuan-Tai) the woodcutter, Wei Min Hui (Danny Lee) the silversmith, and Yao Guang (Wong Chung) the travelling acrobat, are taking a stand, and it's them against the ruthless bandits.

Contains Examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Fang Yi-Fei drinks a lot when he's not kicking ass. He does ditch his bottles after realizing he needs to work together with his new friends to beat off the bandits.
  • Anyone Can Die: Most of the villagers, and three of the titular five, doesn't outlive the credits.
  • Big Bad: The bandit leader (who is referred simply as such throughout the film) who blackmails the village into unlocking their chest of silver, declaring that they have armed patrol in the outskirts ready to kill anyone attempting to leave the village, and saying they will return in a week to collect the silver.
  • Bystander Syndrome: When Fang Yi-Fei, being a drunk and unwilling to get back into fights, refuse to help the village fight off the bandits, Chen Deng and Ma Dao, with the villagers, cites this trope that he's condemning everyone to their deaths by failing to fight back, despite being capable.
  • Due to the Dead: To Chen Deng, Ma Dao, and Yi-fei. With the deceased being laid out and having a white cloth pulled over their faces.
  • Ensemble Cast: The titular five are all portrayed by Shaw leading stars, which are at the peak of their popularity at the time.
  • Escape Artist: Chen Deng, a master thief and pickpocket, who in his first scene gets tied up to a tree... and then gets away while the entire village had their back turned on him for literally just a moment. A comment from the village elder states that "He always does that."
  • Five-Man Band: Well, there are five protagonists.
    • The Hero: Chen Deng is the first of the five to be introduced, and has most amount of development revolving around him.
    • The Lancer: Fang Yi-fei is the town drunk, but also a capable fighter and kicks plenty of ass in the second half.
    • The Big Guy: Ma Dao is a woodcutter and a brawler who is larger than the other four.
    • The Heart: Wei Min-hui is the best friend of Ma Dao the lancer, and spends most of his screentime motivating his friends.
    • Tag Along Kid: Yao Guang is a travelling acrobat who just happens to stumble across the village, and decide to help out.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Most of the fights in the movie are between fists.
  • I Lied: The bandits dumped a chest of silver in the village and demands for the chest to be opened, saying they will spare the villagers if they unlocked the chest. But a later scene had their leader stating they are ready to massacre the village, in order to Leave No Witnesses.
  • Lovable Rogue: Chen Deng may be a pickpocket and thief, but he's also a jolly, friendly chap and gets along well with the villagers, whom are actually reluctant to punish him after they had him tied up.
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: The chest of silver which the bandits dropped in the village, and demands for the local smith to open (else they return and massacre it's inhabitants).
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: A Genre Deconstruction of the typical Seven Samurai-style plot. The villagers are being terrorized by bandits, and this time there aren't any samurai / cowboy / warriors / whatever coming to their rescue. At which point five villagers ends up becoming unlikely friends and banding together to save their village, by training themselves to become capable fighters and killers from scratch, rather than getting the help of professionals.
  • Martial Pacifist: All five of them.
  • Non-Indicative Title: The five main characters aren't savage, or even violent. It's the bandits which are savage, threatening to kill an entire village just for being unable to unlock the chest of silver.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Ma Deng, the town drunkard, turns out to be one of the best kung-fu fighters in the village and a very capable fighter in his own right. Even the townspeople are amazed.
  • The Stoic: Ma Deng the woodcutter doesn't really like to talk, and rarely emotes even when conversing with the other four.
  • Violence is the Only Option: What the titular five ultimately decides about the bandits.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Courtesy of the Shaws' favorite Mr. Fanservice Ti Lung and Chen Kuan-tai, Fang Yi-Fei and Ma Dao both have fight scenes while shirtless, exposing their pecs to the audience.