Leaving the poverty of his life in Shantung to seek fortune in Shanghai, The Boxer is instead drawn into a world of corruption, gang warfare and evil... Where his only protection is his famed fighting technique.
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Ma Yung Cheng leaves Shantung, trying to find better fortune in Shanghai, trusting his youth and physical valour. He meets friendship with Hsiai Chiang Pei, and love (CHING LI), and fate has him meet, and find employment with a local gangster. He defeats an undefeatable Foreign Champion, then three champions at once, only to fall into a trap set up by gangster arch-rival Yang Shuang... Written by
A masterpiece, and possibly the best of it's kind...
Before the advent of DVD media, films such as Cheng Cheh's "Boxer From Shantung" could only be seen in severely butchered form, complete with laughable and awful dubbing, fair to poor picture quality, always in "pan and scan" format with a percentage of the picture chopped out, and in most cases, with the harder violence removed as well. Finally "Ma Yong Zhen" can be seen the way director Cheh envisioned his passionate "rags to riches" epic, with "epic" being a suitable word as this film is quite big in scope, and surpasses the 2 hour mark. The tale itself is a familiar one to be sure; a young, ambitious street urchin uses his unique boxing skills and mental cunning to climb the bloody ladder of success, and fortune. But this tale has rarely been filmed so eloquently. There is so much to praise here, beginning with cinematography; forget comparing this film with the endless and uninspired kung-fu pictures made through the 60's to 70's. For the look of "Ma Yong Zhen" is that of a mostly beautiful art-house style production. This can finally be seen in it's original aspect ratio of 2,35 widescreen, and the difference is hardly describable. For years apparently, this was only released widely with a running time of just over 90 minutes, but the wonderful DVD from "Celestial Pictures" restores the feature to it's 124 minute running time. The lead character, played by Chen Kuan-tai, is really superb in his role as the ambitious 'Ma'. He possesses a strange, utterly unique physical beauty which somehow elicits sympathy from the viewer. The film reminded me a bit of 1983's "Scarface", as the stories, as well as the extreme violence are similar themes within both pictures. However Chen's character never loses touch with his own humanity, unlike Tony Montana, who became a monster. And I must agree with another poster who described the feeling of "sadness" that envelops the film. Much of it is quiet, subdued, featuring some haunting, and totally unobtrusive musical score. Of course this is misleading, as the film explodes with a brand of violence hard to describe, for the films breathtaking climax. That new DVD also features the original Mandarin language audio track, and hearing the original language is the only way to see this. There are English subtitles as well. Recommended viewing for anyone curious to see a how a traditional kung-fu film can be transformed into a work of art.
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