Issue #300         HOME          Contact Us        BACK ISSUES          February 6th, 2006

Red Trousers
(2002; Tai Seng Entertainment)

Cantonese: Hung fu zi
Mandarin: Hong ku zi
English: Red Trousers

  RATING: 7/10


Known in the West for projects like MORTAL KOMBAT and BEVERLY HILLS NINJA, Robin Shou Wan-bo got his start as a stuntman in the HK film industry and he pays tribute to his fellow stunt performers with this offbeat documentary, which was produced in-house by Tai Seng. The title refers to the garb worn by young Peking Opera School students in training and we are afforded a glimpse of a similar school operating in Mainland China, while Sammo Hung Kam-po reminisces about the one in HK where he, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and other soon-to-be famous performers learned their craft. The undeservedly little-known Ridley Tsui Bo-wah (who resembles a mild mannered computer programmer, but choreographed and performed some of the most amazing and dangerous stunts ever executed in a HK film) is also featured and the great Lau Kar-leung (still remarkably spry and animated in his golden years) recounts his early days as a stuntman in black and white productions. Other lesser known performers are introduced, relating their experiences and goals (namely, the desire to advance to the position of choreographer or director, as a HK stuntman can only last a few years in the business before his body can no longer handle the rigors of what is routinely expected of him). While not a thorough examination of the craft, RED TROUSERS provides a sound overview both in terms of what it means to be a HK stunt performer and the physical basis and discipline required to excel in the industry.

Robin Shou Wan-bo (left), Beatrice Chia Sammo Hung Kam-po

Shou also tries to provide a context for his tribute via a short movie-within-the-movie called "Lost Time" and this is where RED TROUSERS falls short. We see various scenes from this production, which are then followed up by a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the stunt sequences were planned and executed. It is a worthy approach and rewarding in that regard, but "Lost Time" has been cut in half from its original 44 minute running time and rendered borderline incoherent in the process. Its weaknesses are also exacerbated by severe technical shortcomings. The CGI utilized to depict the various settings and fantasy FX is absurdly cartoonish, and the image during night sequences is so ridiculously dark, one can hardly even make out the combatants, let alone appreciate their skills. Shou should have either included the full version or cut it down further to just provide a lead-in to the various athletic feats, which are the raison d’etre here.

 Lau Kar-leung


As with many Tai Seng releases, RED TROUSERS: THE LIFE OF THE HONG KONG STUNTMEN (onscreen title) offers a multitude of audio options. The original soundtrack is in English, Cantonese and Mandarin (with subtitles in English where appropriate) and can be monitored in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS. The "Lost Time" action sequences sound terrific and the audio during the various interviews and on-set bits is fine. Also available are tracks entirely in English or Spanish (both DD-5.1), plus Cantonese and Mandarin dubs in DD-2.0. On top of all these is a commentary track, featuring Shou, co-star Keith Hirabayashi, and screenwriter Dr. Craig Reid. The trio discuss various aspects of the production, while also incorporating additional information about the participants and the challenges Shou faced on a short schedule and small budget. The keep case comes packaged in an outer cover which also contains a small hardcover book filled with color photos. RED TROUSERS is presented at 1.85:1 and looks good when it is sufficiently lit, but anamorphic enhancement would definitely have helped to make the low resolution sequences less of a strain to view.

Ridley Tsui Bo-wah Jude Poyer

Disc 2 serves up extended interviews with Sammo Hung (12 mins) and Lau Kar-leung (17 mins). Hung (filmed on the set of MARTIAL LAW) talks about a disagreement he had with Bruce Lee regarding a part promised to him in GAME OF DEATH, as well as his early Peking Opera training. Sifu Lau (the most engaging speaker in the program) relays a number of enjoyable anecdotes, including the experience of playing ten characters in a single day for the same feature and having to do death scenes for each one! There is also more footage (25 mins) of the Mainland Opera students going about their daily routines and revealing more about their hopes and fears. A picture gallery and trailers for this and other Tai Seng releases round out the set.

Robin Shou Wan-bo 

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Tai Seng Entertainment. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2006. All Rights Reserved.


- U.S. Release

NTSC – Region 0

Tai Seng Entertainment #44544

Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0/DTS

English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish Language

Subtitles (Optional): English

12 Chapters

4:3 Letterbox (1.85:1)

95 Minutes


- Great Britain: 15

Manitoba: 14A

Quebec: G

Singapore: PG

Contains moderate violence

10 A Masterpiece
9 Excellent
8 Highly Recommended
7 Very Good
6 Recommended
5 Marginal Recommendation
4 Not Recommended
3 Poor
2 Definitely Not Recommended
1 Dreadful