The Boxer from Shantung
Dir: Chang Cheh, Hsueh Li Pao
Chang Cheh's Shaw Brother's Production The Boxer from Shantung is full of kung-fu action but it's not a great example of the director's or the studio's best work. It is the classic tale of one poor man's rise to the top, with the exception that this poor man doesn't turn to crime as such but tries to expel it while also enjoying the life of a mob boss. The martial arts action sequences are strong but just that little too relentless, the constant screaming and shouting becomes quite irritating and the mindless fighting overpowers the story. Of course this is a martial arts film but it all get a little too much too soon. That said, the final fight scene is gloriously lengthy, absolutely overcooked but in the best possible way. It is a scene typical of many classic kung-fu movies, better than most but overall the film doesn't have a stand out scene of its own. Chen Kuan-tai's performance is commanding though and he carries the film well on his own shoulders. Overall the film could be said to have influenced many a martial arts film since (2004's Kung Fu Hustle and 2006's The City of Violence in particular) and many of assistant director John Woo's films. The cinematography is strong but I fail to see why the film is regarded as the classic it is, although I've always liked the Mario Milano appearance where he plays a Russian heavyweight fighter who simply stands there as local wannabe hard men take turns to punch the living daylights out of him before he simply unfolds his arms, picks them up and throws them across the room. Worth watching for the last half an hour but with the sound down, as the endless shouting will get on your nerves.