120 years ago, in the 1970's, drifter Larry Wu (John Yohan) hits a
village God-knows-where where he is immediately attacked by Umberto Li
(Don Nguyen), who accuses Larry to have given the town scurvey - for no
apparent reason other than to have the two get into a kung fu fight. Larry
defeats the scurvey-struck Umberto, but then heals him using oranges he
has found nearby. The two become close friends.
Larry and Umberto are
always short on money, and the only jobs they get are usually degrading
and pay nothing - but then village badman Mordechai O'Brien (Christopher
Roy) tries to hire Larry to murder the Black Leopard, the village's
mysterious benefactor. Larry turns the offer down, because he doesn't want
to use his kung fu for murder ...
Umberto's brother Edgar (Robert
Casimiro) later fills Larry and Umberto in on the history of the village:
Once Mordechai and the Black Leopard were city leaders in a joint effort,
but when they needed money to build a city center, Mordechai suggested to
go into opium trading, to which Black Leopard reluctantly agreed, but only
because it was for the good of the city. However, Mordechai soon fell for
the lure of money from the opium business and became a big time drug
trader, very much in opposition to Black Leopard - and thus the two not
only split ways but became mortal enemies.
In the following days, Larry
and Umberto actually get a job, make some money, and turn the little money
they have made into a fortune at the gambling tables. And they save Black
Leopard's life on the side ...
But then their money is stolen and
Umberto is brutally raped. Larry figures the only way Umberto can overcome
his rape trauma is to become a kung fu master, thus he teaches him all he
knows, then hands him over to master Chung (Han Lee) for some surplus
training. But Master Chung takes money, and lots of it, and thus Larry
accepts Mordechai's assignement to kill Black Leopard after all ...
late, Larry finds out that Black Leopard is actually Umberto's brother
Edgar, and to avenge his death, Larry goes after Mordechai, and he kills
everyone standing in his way before killing Mordechai himself, too. Only
then does Larry realize he has become a killing machine ...
above synopsis makes you figure A Belly Full of Anger is just
another bad and badly written cheap Kung Fu movie, you are right of course
- and you are wrong as well.
You are right because undoubtedly, the film
was produced on a shoestring, its script contains more kung fu clichées
than one would care to count, the fights erupting from out of nowhere
are a sure indicator that having a coherent script wasn't the filmmaker's
main concern to begin with, and the choppy editing and terrible dubbing
suggest that the film was originally about something else altogether.
But you are wrong as well, because this is an hommage
to 1970's cheap kung fu cinema done the avant garde way: The choppy
camerawork and unnecessary zoom-ins and zoom-outs prevalent in cheap
martial arts flicks are further developed into a cinematic language here,
the bad acting turned into an artform, the many weird touches of the films
of old (like the flying villain etc) are turned into comicbook surrealism,
the incoherent quality of film footage seems to be a stylistic statement, and the typically unnaturally choreographed fights
(including their weird sound effects) occuring in typical
non-descript places get an almost triplike dimension here.
said, you might have to be a masochist fan of these bad kung fu flicks of
old to fully appreciate A Belly Full of Anger, but if so, you're in
for an almost otherworldly treat.