Written by: Carroll Jenkins on July 15th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1981
Director: Hao-chuan Yuan
Cast: Pai Piao, Danny Li, Sau Yin, Sun Chien, Lo Lieh, Lily Li
DVD Released: March 4thth, 2007
Approximate Running Time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin
Subtitles: Chinese, English
DVD Release: Celestial Pictures
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC (Hong Kong)
Retail Price: $10.90 ($85 HK)
Synopsis: Three graduates of constabulary school enter the force with their lofty ideals intact, but not for long.The entire police / judicial system is as corrupt as it is despised by the general populace.
This is a period swordplay drama about virtue versus evil. Mostly realistic in tone (no fantasy elements, only a couple of instances of light wire work), this is by strict definition a wuxia. The production seems woefully average at first, unrealistically idealistic and slanted to the point of fault, with cliche situations and characters, marginal action choreography and budget, and suffering a throw-away plot.
Perhaps this is all intended to lull the viewer, because the extreme violence and depravity hidden beneath the surface soon reveals itself and turns self-righteous piety into vengeful vendetta. If not for a certain tongue-in-cheek quality, the extortion, black mail, brutality, torture, limb chopping, and execution would secrete this film a place next to extreme and grim cinema such as Men Behind The Sun.
The principle character / good guy is played by Jason Pai Piao (Killer Constable) and he gives a commendable performance, but it is the gleefully wicked villains that steal the show. Keung Hon, Chan Shen, and Chow Kin-Ping; three of the worst, also appeared in Lost Souls.
This ShawScope production is presented in a very sharp 2:35 anamorphic presentation with mono Mandarin soundtrack. There is occasional motion blur and some print damage evident, both are slight and should not deter your enjoyment. The usual IVL extras are present: trailer, stills, brief cast and crew notes.
What Price Honesty? sounds rather like a Michael Moore title, with which it shares certain attributes. This epic struggle between glorious Utopian dreams and sadistic capitalistic avarice steadily gets worse and worse [and therefore better and better] as it progresses. What starts off as a throwaway tin foil sword opera becomes a diamond in the [very] rough.