The Prodigal Son (1982)
Directed by Sammo Hung
The Prodigal Son film poster
The Prodigal Son (败家仔; lit. "Son Ruining the Family"), also released as "Pull No Punches," is a 1982 Hong Kong kung fu comedy film directed by Sammo Hung, starring Yuen Biao and Lam Ching Ying and featuring Hung in a supporting role. The film is based on the historical figures Leung Jan (Yuen Biao), Leung Yee-tai (Lam Ching Ying), and Wong Wah-bo (Sammo Hung). It features the martial art Wing Chun.
Leung Jan (Yuen Biao) is a young man in a wealthy family living in Foshan in the mid-1800s. He is a martial artist trained by two instructors in his father's employ. He has fought over three hundred times in Foshan and won every fight, but unbeknownst to him, his father has arranged for his servant Yee Tong Choi (Chan Lung) to bribe Jan's opponents to lose to him in order to protect him. This has caused Jan to believe that he is a world-class fighter, but in truth he hasn't even mastered the basics of kung fu and any real fighter could easily defeat him. Everyone knows this but him, giving him the nickname "The Prodigal Son" behind his back.
One night, three of Jan's friends attend a performance by the Lok Fung Lin Chinese Opera troupe. One of Jan's friends is attracted to the lead actress and asks her out on a date after the performance. She refuses, but he insists and even harasses her. She reveals herself to be a man, Leung Yee-tai (Lam Ching Ying), a master of Wing Chun. He beats up and humiliates Jan's friends.
Jan challenges Yee-tai to a fight to avenge the insults to his friends. As usual, Yee Tong Choi tries to bribe Yee-tai to lose, but Yee-tai refuses, easily defeats Jan, and reveals the truth about his martial arts ineptitude to him.
Jan, desiring to learn real kung fu, asks Yee-tai to teach him Wing Chun. Yee-tai refuses because he thinks Jan would probably misuse it, but Jan has his father buy the Lok Fung Lin troupe and gives himself a job as Yee-tai's personal assistant, insisting on following Yee-tai everywhere until Yee-tai agrees to teach him Wing Chun. This continues for six months.
The Lok Fung Lin troupe travels to Canton. There, Yee-tai's Wing Chun skills are witnessed by Lord Ngai Fai (Frankie Chan), the son of a Manchu duke, who is also a martial arts master and is hunting for a worthy opponent. Ngai forces Yee-tai to fight him. Ngai and Yee-tai are evenly matched until Yee-tai has an asthma attack. Ngai stops the fight and postpones it until Yee-tai is healthy and fit for it.
It is revealed that Ngai is also a "prodigal son;" unbeknownst to him, his father has ordered his bodyguards to protect him from anyone who might beat him in a fight. However, their methods are more ruthless and brutal than the bribery employed by Jan's parents; they resort to assassination.
During the night, Ngai's bodyguards and a team of assassins infiltrate the Lok Fung Lin theater, massacre the troupe, and burn down the theater. Yee-tai is having trouble sleeping because of his asthma, and he sees light reflected off an assassin's blade through his eyelids and reacts in time to escape along with Jan. The assassins think they died in the fire, as does everyone else.
Yee-tai takes Jan to the home of his martial brother Wong Wah-bo (Sammo Hung). With Wah-bo's help, Jan finally convinces Yee-tai to teach him Wing Chun. Jan trains under both Yee-tai and Wah-bo; Yee-tai trains him in Wing Chun and Wah-bo trains him in freestyle fighting.
Over time, Jan achieves proficiency in martial arts, but Yee-tai's asthma is worsening. Jan takes Yee-tai back to Foshan to see a doctor. There, Ngai learns that Yee-tai is still alive, and he visits him. Yee-tai reveals that Ngai's bodyguards have been assassinating everyone who might beat Ngai. The bodyguards murder Yee-tai. Ngai, horrified, has his bodyguards executed.
Jan challenges Ngai to a fight. Using everything that Yee-tai and Wah-bo taught him, he manages to beat Ngai.