Near the beginning of Henchman: The Al Leong Story John Carpenter (Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China) says Al Leong has been in every movie ever made as far as he knows. That’s a slight exaggeration. But between his work as an actor, (though he doesn’t consider himself one), and a stuntman he’s been in a lot of films. Usually as a bad guy.
Probably best known for Big Trouble In Little China, Al Leong has appeared in Die Hard, I Come In Peace, Savage Beach and Showdown In Little Tokyo among many others. He even played Genghis Khan in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Low budget or major studio epic, he’s been in them all. He’s very much the guy whose name you might not know, but you recognize his face. And with his long hair and Fu Manchu mustache, he’s very recognizable.
Director Vito Trabucco (Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Never Open the Door) traces Al’s career from its start. Then he was more interested in motorcycles and martial arts than movies. Through interviews with Al himself and those who knew him, we find out how he combined his skills, determination and a bit of luck to get established in Hollywood.
There’s some footage from the start of his career. Mostly of him playing generic Asian goons in shows like The A-Team and Magnum P.I. The footage from Knight Rider is absolutely hysterical. There are also great segments, complete with behind-the-scenes footage from his work on bigger films. Extensive coverage is given to his fight with Brandon Lee in Rapid Fire. That includes interview footage of Lee calling it his favourite fight. Henchman: The Al Leong Story also gives a lot of time to his work as a fight co-coordinator on The Scorpion King. That includes teaching The Rock, excuse me, Dwayne Johnson how to sword fight.
His health issues are also covered. Apart from the broken bones and other wounds, all long-time stuntmen get he’s also survived brain cancer and a stroke. He recovered from cancer and made a triumphant return in Rapid Fire. The stroke, however, ended his career and hearing him and his friends talk about it is genuinely touching.
Despite the ending, Henchman: The Al Leong Story is a celebration of the man’s life and career. Hearing the likes of Craig Baxley, Jeff Imada and Raymond Barry talk about working with him on any number of great, and not-so-great, films is fascinating. And seeing him now, refusing to give in to self-pity is inspiring.
Henchman: The Al Leong Story is available on DVD via the film’s Facebook page or website.