The martial plan | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The martial plan 

A kung fu master takes it to the people in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

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Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Released in 1978, this kung fu actioner by Hong Kong director Lau Kar-leung remains a staple of the genre. Gordon Liu stars as a young man who aids rebel forces in their fight against the Qin empire by smuggling documents through his family's shop; after his scheme is exposed, he joins the monks at the legendary Shaolin Temple and spends years honing his martial arts skills. Lau depicts the grueling path to kung fu mastery as a spiritual quest, yet in the end its physical and mental discipline seem more like a path to communal harmony: having completed his training, the hero vows to teach kung fu to common folk like himself so they can overthrow the despotic empire. In Mandarin with subtitles.


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