Boxer From Shantung – Lots Of Red Paint, But Not Much Else

Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Action/ Martial Arts
Director: Chang Cheh/ Pao Hsueh-Li
Year: 1972

Rating: ★★½☆☆

WORTH A LOOK

I originally picked up this movie because I heard it was one of Chang Cheh’s bloodiest efforts. Serves me right.

Ma Yongzheng (Chen Kuan-Tai) is the titular character, a country bumpkin who comes to Shanghai to make a name for himself, i.e. become a gangster through toughness and ability.

There are already two main gangsters in town, who are arch rivals: Boss Yang (Chiang Nan) and Boss Tan Si (David Chiang).

I won’t belabor the plot, but suffice it to say that it’s rudimentary. Somehow, director Chang Cheh takes over two hours to tell the simplest of stories. Frankly, it’s Dullsville, and until the final fight, the martial arts choreography is nothing to brag about, either, even though the fight coordinators include Liu Chia-Liang, Lau Kar-Wing, Chan Chuen, and Tong Gai.

But there is that final fight.

Boss Yang has invited Ma Yongzheng to a teahouse for a private chat. It’s obviously a trap, but Ma Yongzheng decides to go alone, even though he knows he will be facing dozens of opponents. Sounds dumb? Hell, yes, but that’s Ma Yongzheng’s one and only strategy.

Screenwriters Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang save what little cleverness they have on tap for the fight. There’s boiling water, disguises, and axes hidden in baskets of peanuts. When it seems that Ma Yongzheng is certain to be defeated, he has one last trick up his sleeve, and a great final riposte to the villain.

The other thing that makes Boxer From Shantung a little less painful to sit through is some of the great character actors from the era, like Ku Feng, Chiang Nan, and Tin Ching, although they aren’t given a whole lot to do.

And it must be said that the picture looks great — wonderful cinematography and sets.

But so what? Boxer From Shantung is thin, unoriginal, slow, overlong, and only the final fight is impressive.

If you really want to see Boxer From Shantung because of it’s reputation, I would advise skipping to the end fight. You won’t miss much.

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