Follow TV Tropes


Film / To Kill A Mastermind

Go To

To Kill A Mastermind is a 1979 Shaw Brothers martial arts-wuxia film directed by Sun Chung.

The Qisha gang is a ruthless organization founded by seven rogue martial artists, and they're committing robberies, assassinations, and various atrocities in the martial world. An Imperial Inspector is sent to investigate their actions, but at the same time the clan's vile leader (Johnny Wang) and his right-hand, Xi-Zhao (Yuen Wah, in one of his early significant roles) are plotting to kill each other to usurp leadership.

To Trope A Masterlist:

  • Bad Boss: The Qisha clan's leader is willing to set up his underlings to kill each other for no reason (other than to root out any traitors) and shows no remorse over his subordinates' demise. Late in the film, he had no qualms destroying his own lair to wipe out Imperial agents intending to arrest him, crushing plenty of his own servants in the process.
  • Bald of Evil: Chief Xi-Zhao, the Number Two of the Qi Sha clan, is the only entirely bald character in the film and also one of the more ruthless, sadistic villains, killing government soldiers, guards, redshirts, and even unarmed serving maids.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The last challenger in the opening scene; having witnessed his brothers killed by the Qisha clan, opts to stab himself through the stomach, rather than have the villainous clan kill or take him alive.
  • Bifurcated Weapon: One of the Qisha clan's best swordsman uses a blade that can split apart into a smaller blade, and then into a thin stiletto. Very useful for sneak attacks.
  • Collapsing Lair: In the finale, a group of Imperial soldiers, inspectors, and Red Shirts managed to arrest what's left of the Qisha clan as they march into the clan's caverns... but the Qisha leader is nowhere in sight. As it turns out the leader had escaped, and from above ground level, ignites the explosives he had booby-trapped his headquarters with. Cue a consecutive series of explosions and the caverns collapsing, burying several unfortunate redshirts as well as his own clan members...
  • Dual Wielding: Numerous characters wield two weapons, both at once, with deadly proficiency. Notably the hero Fan-Tao, the three masked clansman, and the Qisha clan leader himself who uses twin spears in the final battle.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Qisha clan's hideout is located underneath a series of caverns, right below a mansion.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Qisha clan's leaders starting to distrust each other after the botched covoy raid takes up much of the film's middle portion, with plenty of in-fighting, backstabs, and the like. Of course, it was all planned by their leader...
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Chief Xi-zhao, thanks to his clawed gauntlets. At least two of his onscreen kills had their throats ripped out by bronze claws, with gory onscreen results.
  • In the Back: The climatic battle between Fan-Tao and Liang-Ying against the Qisha clan leader is momentarily turned around when Fan-Tao managed to impale the leader in the back with his short-sword. But despite being mortally wounded, the leader simple uses his chi to push the sword out of his body and continue fighting.
  • Lured into a Trap: The Qisha clan had their underlings ambush and imperial convoy full of gold in a valley to raid the cargo. While it works initially, with the clan's minions killing plenty of Red Shirts, but as it turns out Fan-Tao and Liang-Ying disguised themselves as regular soldiers, where they suddenly fought back and took down several Qisha minions.
  • Made of Iron: The Qisha clan leader can take massive amounts of punishment, including multiple stabs and an impalement from the back, and keep going... it takes Fan-Tao and Liang-Ying almost forever to finally defeat him, including a sword through the back, three darts in front, and Fan-Tao delivering a Coup de GrĂ¢ce while standing atop him.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Qisha clan's three experts goes around carrying out assasinations and killings wearing grey-and-white masks. Fan-Tao managed to remove one of their masks in the final battle, and realize his face is hideously deformed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Qisha clan leader, in the aftermath of a botched robbery on an imperial convoy, plots to have his six underlings assasinate each other by sowing distrust within his own ranks.
  • Off with His Head!: The second of the three challengers battling the Qisha clan's experts ends up having his head sliced off by a Deadly Disc. It's a Gory Discretion Shot (somewhat unusual, considering this being a Shaw production...) but later the camera cuts to his head and headless corpse side-by-side.
  • Power Fist: Chief Xi-Zhao wears a deadly clawed gauntlet over his right hand, which allows him to block sword-thrusts and gore through flesh during his fights.
  • Rule of Seven: The Qisha clan has seven leaders.
  • Sigil Spam: The Qisha clan's logo is plastered on flags and banners all over their caverns' walls.
  • She Knows Too Much: Chief Xi-Zhao personally kills a pair of unarmed handmaidens for eavesdropping a discussion between him and the Qisha clan leader.
  • Terrible Trio: The Qisha clan's experts, three deformed masked men who serves the leader directly.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Chief Xi-Zhao, who kills two maids in the brothel scene for eavesdropping. But then most of the Qisha clan plays this straight, with the brothel headmistress being one of their victims.
  • Wuxia