Living Up to its Name

Effectively stealing the perfect descriptor with its title, Knockabout summarizes a rowdy, comic, and often mischievous kung fu film made with Golden Harvest’s distinctive creative flair. Biao Yuen, starring here in his first screen role as such, shows a diversity in style and creativity in choreography that justifies a generally routine genre script.

Yeun plays alongside Ka-Yan Leung as marginally successful con men, swindling people for cash in amusing ways. While some comedy has an impenetrable, localized flavor, the schemes and Leung/Yuen’s antics carry enough enthusiasm to overcome any foreign sensibilities, allowing Knockabout a wider audience.

Knockabout shows a resilience against the established Shaw Brothers norm

Sammo Hung is here too, and in the final act, Yeun and Hung have a blast together on screen. It’s a shame this movie isn’t only them, although that isn’t a dig at Leung who proves more than capable. However, there’s a natural chemistry that’s obvious even near the beginning of Hung/Yuen’s careers.

Knockabout is overlong for the plain, familiar story of a student seeking revenge against a man who wronged him. A slight twist breaks from the formula, but Knockabout otherwise coasts through narrative development. So be it – the creativity is spent on the fight scenes instead, including the 15-minute finale that includes bizarre fighting stances and a jump rope battle that’s unlike any other.

On its own, Knockabout shows a resilience against the established Shaw Brothers norm, who remained steadfast in their tradition. Knockabout factors in prop use, Biao’s style bringing a playfulness that celebrates the ridiculous antics, the action matching the dialogue’s tonality. It’s a movie wholly in-sync, endlessly mobile and never repetitive. Every fight has a certain charm and a spark that only this genre’s best can claim to have.

That manic style pays respect to Buster Keaton and other silent screen stars. The gamesmanship shown in the cons with slick sleight of hand is Keaton-esque, and brawls that involve repeatedly kicking foes until they kick each other is another visual ploy common in silents. Knockabout has them all.


Well, there’s grain in the image, but it’s suspicious. Behind that, detail falters. Clear signs of digital manipulation include waxy faces and flat definition, even a little smearing. Knockabout looks clean, but unnaturally so. Organic texture never can keep a consistent hold (but does pierce through in close) leaving Knockabout smeary and imprecise. “Grain” carries a notably rough, digital-esque touch too.

A minor bit of ringing on certain edges limits potential issues, but it’s still there, adding the concerns. This is a shame since the print used looks wonderful, completely stabilized and free of damage. Colors appear wholly restored with a slip toward sepia that nicely adds a vintage veneer; that saps vibrancy overall, if never losing the core primaries.

Knockabout’s brightness helps elevate this disc, the sun intense and whites near their highest purity (slightly skewed with the sepia, but convincingly white). Black levels falter, more murky browns, although this is consistent with other Hong Kong genre films of the era.


Take your pick: Cantonese, Mandarin, or two English dubs, one of the latter in sloppy 5.1. Cantonese mono defaults, and it’s the clearest choice of the lot. While the higher treble wobbles at the peak and dialog exhibits notable coarseness, the overall effort betters many Knockabout contemporaries. DTS-HD provides clarity as possible, limited at the source.


Frank Djeng joins Michael Worth for a commentary. A 2006 interview with Sammo Hung joins another with star Bryan Leung Kar-yan. There’s still one more interview, this with Grandmaster Chan Sau Chang. A deleted scene, trailer, and still close this one out.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Knockabout doesn’t always translate between cultures, but the universally comic material is absolutely perfect – and so is the choreography.

User Review
4 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 28 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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