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by Jay Seaver

"A less impressive Hammer & Shaw crossover."
3 stars

The second and final film in the brief collaboration between the Hammer and Shaw Brothers studios is easily overlooked; it doesn't quite so immediately announce itself as the fusion of their two styles as "The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires". The behind-the-scenes turmoil had Hammer eventually dumping the film, while Shaw seems to have provided production support without much attempt to put their stamp on it. It's not a bad bit of grindhouse fare, as such things go; although still most noteworthy for the odd place it occupies in genre film history.

It opens with American freelance assassin Shatter (Stuart Whitman) knocking off an African dictator and making off with the contents of his aide's suitcase. He arrives in Hong Kong to pick up the money he's owed, only to have banker Hans Leber (Antron Diffring) refuse to pay, British spy Paul Rattwood (Peter Cushing) informs him that his mission was not, as he believed, sanctioned by the CIA. Leber (or someone) tries to have him killed and Rattwood tells him to leave on the next flight, having some goons deliver a beatdown just to drive the point home. Fortunately, it's behind a bar and massage parlor that employs Tai Pah (Ti Lung) and Mai Mee (Lily Li Li-Li); not only are they willing to give Shatter a place to lie low, but Tai Pah has tremendous kung fu skills

It's worth noting that where 7 Golden Vampires was produced by both studios, Shaw Brothers apparently took a much less active role in Shatter, and one way this manifests is in nobody being credited as action director or fight choreographer. It's not crippling - between original director Monte Hellman and producer Michael Carreras (who took over about two-thirds of the way through), they are generally smart enough to stand back and watch Ti Lung go when it's time for that, and while the results aren't as strong as a real Shaw Brothers movie, there's never any doubt about why Ti was one of the studio's biggest stars. There's some quality martial arts, and while it's choppier than it could be, Ti's still a blast to watch.

The rest of the movie is kind of a mess, though, with a script that is not necessarily terribly convoluted but still on the dumb side far more often than necessary, all too frequently taking the laziest route from one plot development or fight to the next, with plenty of moment-to-moment sloppiness and people who maybe wouldn't be great actors even if they were working in their first language. The last act is kind of egregiously sloppy, and on the other end, there's something genuinely bizarre about how casually the people of Hong Kong shrug off violence, a bit of black comedy that's entertaining in moments but undercuts the ones where the audience is supposed to take Shatter's PTSD seriously.

Stuart Whitman may not have a lot of time to really play with that as Shatter, or anything else, but he's got the right sort of run-down energy for the part; the audience can see every questionable moral choice etched into him. He's a good hitman who is tired of this life but doesn't know how to do anything other than keep going, a useful contrast with Tia Pah's cocky clarity. Peter Cushing, in his last role for Hammer, gets billed as a guest star and adds just the right amount of sneering officiousness to every scene he's in.

This would be Cushing's last film for Hammer, and the studio itself would not last long afterward. In some ways, it's not surprising that "Shatter" sank; it's the result of a British studio trying to make an American B-movie in Hong Kong style, and only fitfully puts it all together. When it does get all of these personalities working together, it's kind of fun, and it happens often enough that the spots where the influences don't gel and start working against each other aren't the problems they could be.

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originally posted: 05/04/20 01:11:06
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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 11-Jun-2002

  01-Jan-1974 (R18)
  DVD: 00--0000

  N/A (R)

Directed by
  Michael Carreras
  Monte Hellman

Written by
  Don Houghton

  Stuart Whitman
  Lung Ti
  Lily Li
  Peter Cushing
  Anton Diffring

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