aka 馬永貞 aka Ma Yong Zhen aka Ma Wing Jing aka Killer from Shantung 1972 Written by Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang
Directed by Chang Cheh and Pao Hsueh-Li
The rise of a gangster from nothing to boss who goes down in a violent orgy of death is one of those classic tales that gets told a lot in cinema. Boxer of Shantung is no exception on delivering the basic story. What Boxer of Shantung does do, is deliver the story in an entertaining fashion that makes you cheer for the hero, even as the trappings of power cause him to abandon some of his principals.
Boxer of Shantung is Chen Kuan-Tai’s first lead role, and he brings such an energy of pride to his laborer character Ma Yung Chen that you know he is going places. As a penniless worker, he argues against the innkeeper treating his fellow poors like second-class citizens. He refuses to do a demeaning job for insulting carriage drivers, nor does he accept charity from a fellow immigrant from Shantung who has gone on to do well. He decrees that he is going to be just as successful as him one day, and soon he gets a little territory, then goes punching his way for more. During his rise, Ma remembers his poor roots and chastises his men for shaking them down for money, choosing instead to target richer districts.
The trappings of power are dangerous, and when you play the game of thrones, you play for keeps, even if the game is being a local boss in olden China. Each move leads Ma Yung Chen increasingly in conflict with the Axe Gang, their champions and boss at first seeing him as a distraction to their main rival, Boss Tan Si (David Chiang Da-Wei), but eventually focusing on Ma Yung Chen with their entire gang army.
The action starts slow in Boxer from Shantung, but builds and build until the end, where Ma Yung Chen is battling the entire Axe Gang by himself. This slow burn action may have fallen out of favor in our ADD/hyperediting modern reality, but it still works for me. The fight scenes are worth waiting for, Chen Kuan-Tai is a powerful force, and the choreography incorporates all the random objects around the landscape into the melees. With each bump into the Axe Gang, Ma Yung Chen battles both more dangerous members and just plain more and more members of the Axe Gang. Continue reading →
aka Tian shi xing dong aka Fighting Madam aka Iron Angels aka Midnight Angels
1987 Directed by Raymond Leung Pun-Hei, Tony Leung Siu-Hung, and Ivan Lai Gai-Ming
Written by Teresa Woo
Angels has quite a laundry list of names. It is known in the UK as Iron Angels (as are the sequels), and the UK suffers from having a cut version of the film. Other names it has been released as include Fighting Madam, Midnight Angels, and the singular Angel.
Angels stands out from many of it’s imitators in several ways. One of the most noticeable is the fun montages set to music, complete with a bunch of quick cuts, that instantly introduce us to characters and tones. Moon Lee’s first appearance in the office is spectacular, showing her attempts to have fun and fit in with the office and work, but she still has to deal with an awful boss and is so eager to run off to shoot people she can’t wait. But those sequences aren’t as common as they should be, and with three directors running around, the film can’t become as good as it should be. That doesn’t mean it is bad or boring, just that there are brief moments of brilliance that are stifled by above averageness. If I could harness the power of wasted potential in the movies I watch, the world would never want for energy.
We know Yukari Oshima’s Madam Sue is evil because she’ll kill her coworkers to prove her point, and even kills her boss after he keeps her from getting her vision of revenge against the police force. Madam Sue laughs hysterically as cops are tortured in front of her, stopping only to lick off some blood that splatters on her. She’s having fun being the top dog of the underworld, switching cars, mocking the police who are chasing after her, even being sexually aggressive towards the DEA Agent Bill. Yukari is rarely presented as sexual in her films, and here she’s in a bathing suit, is sexually aggressive, and even has some body double nudity. Oshima embraces this role fully, and it’s among her best roles. It is a rare villain indeed that can keep up with just how evil and amoral she is.
So this version of Angels is a composite widescreen made from two different versions of the films, one edited for violence and one edited for nudity. So our copy is edited for nothing! The only drawback is it is still dubbed into English. But when a composite copy of Angels mysteriously ends up in your hands due to magic grouch fairies, you don’t look them in the mouth.
Kenji (Saijo Hideki) – Angel #1. Kenji lives in Japan and teaches martial arts when he isn’t working for the Iron Angels. Alex is his name in subtitle land.
Mona (Moon Lee Choi-Fung) – Angel #2. Mona is a bored office worker who would rather be taking down bad guys. Luckily, she works for the Iron Angels so she gets her wish! Moon is her name in subtitle land. Moon Lee can also be seen in Fatal Termination and Tomb Raiders/Avenging Quartet
Helen (Elaine Lui Siu-Ling) – Angel #3. Helen is very man hungry and must flirt with anything with a Y-chromosome near her. She works best being the center of attention and distracting the enemy, but isn’t afraid to go in with guns blazing. Helen’s dubby is a voice you probably will recognize in many Kung Fu films and from Pod People Elaine is her name in subtitle land. Elaine Lui also shows up in Red Wolf as a terrorist, but she was not very comfortable with all the action roles she kept getting as a result of this film.
John King (David Chiang Da-Wei) – Head of the Iron Angels, so I guess he’s like Charlie. Not afraid to join in on some of the smaller action like meeting with gang leaders, but usually is back at the base controlling things. Additional Iron Angels team members include driver Ha-Cheng and secretary Kitty. John Keung is his name in subtitle land.
Bill Fong DEA (Alex Fong Chung-Sun) – DEA agent who hires the Iron Angels to help the Hong Kong police and also help keep down the drug trade. Has an adversarial relationship with Helen despite both of them secretly having feelings for each other. Likes to hide weapons and gadgets in his shoes.
Madam Sue (Yukari Oshima) – Evil evil evil evil evil. Yukari Oshima gives the performance of her career in an awesome, over the top and then some evil gang leader who laughs her way through revenge, torture, murder, and theft of anyone and anything that gets in her way. Eventually her gang is brought down by the Iron Angels, because, why not? Madame Yeung is her name in subtitle land. Yukari Oshima is also on TarsTarkas.NET in Tomb Raiders/Avenging Quartet, Angel’s Mission, Deadly Target, Godfather’s Daughter, and Midnight Angel.