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
'Ma yong zhen' or 'Boxer from Shantung' in the dubbed videocassette version I viewed is a long film but engrossing, showing the rise of Ma Yung Chen from lowly labourer to gang boss.
The film has a strange melancholy air, ending with some of the characters fleeing from Shanghai as war approaches. The music has also a sad feel to it. Avarice is the main driving force of most of the characters as they go about their business but over all there is a doomed air.
Kuan Tai Chen who plays Ma Yung Chen (very well) has a pleasant appealing smile but there is something sad in him too. His yearning to be somebody is touching. He is plausible in the fight scenes too, particularly the tremendous gory fight at the end, which seems to go on endlessly like a nightmare you can't wake up from. David Chiang as usual is great, though not on the screen long enough. The 'four champions' in the film include the Shaw Brothers regular Feng Ku who is always good value.
I believe John Woo worked as an assistant director on the film and is a fan of the director, Cheh Chang. Compare the end of this film with the end of Woo's 'The Killer'.
There is a lot of combat in this film but it sits well with the narrative and the characters. Some martial art films are all fighting and no plot but 'Boxer from Shantung' has both in equally good measures.
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