Highly regarded by HK action fans as one of Sammo Hung's best action movies ever made, EASTERN CONDORS is definitely a cinematic experience described as the Hong Kong version of THE DIRTY DOZEN. The result is certainly unique, with the usual mishmash of genre you normally expect from a '80s action picture.
The story, though, is pretty average: A group of handpicked convicts -- Tung Ming-Sun (Sammo Hung), Szeto (Charlie Chin), Dai Kong (Cheung Kwok Keung), Dai Hoi (Billy Lau), Yun (Yuen Woo-Ping), Yu (Corey Yuen) and among others -- are led by their lieutenant (Lam Ching-Ying) on a deadly mission deep into the jungle of Vietnam to destroy a large cache of weapons left somewhere after the war. If the convicts succeed the mission, they will granted a freedom and pocketed US$200,000 as well. But the mission is cancelled at the last-minute just after they parachute down from the military plane. Even though the lieutenant knows about this, he insists to continue the mission. Once they landed into the jungle, they are assisted by a trio of female Cambodian guerrillas (lead by newcomer Joyce Godenzi) to proceed for the mission. En route, they encounter Man Yen Chieh (Yuen Biao), a slick pirate who later assisting them through the thick of the jungle and eventually joining them for the fight.
Like most of the '80s action picture, thismovie suffers from an uneven mixed of result -- the combination of surprisingly serious and intense war genre and usual comedy elements -- are at times incoherent. No doubt this is quite different from the usual Sammo Hung's other action films at that time, especially since it deals with lots of violence and level of intensity that is overall graphic. His depiction of war is rather bleak, with his motley team gets killed off quickly as soon as the film progresses.
In a change of pace, Hung plays a more straight-faced hero here with most of the humor goes to his co-star Yuen Biao. The overall cast are equally credible, though their characterization are sadly lacking of emotional depth to make us care for them. Not even the presence of Oscar-winning Dr. Haing S. Ngor from THE KILLING FIELDS, who plays as the crazed Yeung Lung, is much to shout about here.
All the episodic plot aside, the movie is most remembered for its number of well-choreographed action sequences. Not surprisingly, the fighting scenes are impressive and the particular highlight is the climatic showdown involving hand-to-hand combats that includes Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Joyce Godenzi, Yuen Wah, Billy Chow, Dick Wei and Yasuaki Kurata. A huge hit in the box-office (grossing at a respectable HK$21.6 million), this is a must-see action classic for every genre fans.