Boxer from Shantung (Review)

Boxer from Shantung

aka 馬永貞 aka Ma Yong Zhen aka Ma Wing Jing aka Killer from Shantung
Boxer from Shantung 馬永貞
Written by Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang
Directed by Chang Cheh and Pao Hsueh-Li

Boxer from Shantung 馬永貞
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.
Boxer from Shantung 馬永貞
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.
Boxer from Shantung 馬永貞
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Golden Venom

Golden Venom

aka 金蠶降

1991HKMDB Link
Directed by Lam Yee-Hung

Golden Venom
Throw your hands in the air, and crystal ball like you just don’t care!

Golden Venom is a kung fu fantasy with laser beams shooting out of people that turns into gross out horror as two families feud in non-game show format. It’s pretty uninspired at times, and I’m not sure what the real point of it was, because it isn’t enough of a gross out film to satisfy the gross out fans, but it’s not enough of a good wuxia type film to satisfy those fans, either. It’s a halfway effort that fails everyone. The only reason I watched Golden Venom is because characters were wearing crazy colored wigs and doing magic kung fu moves, but the overall plot was disappointing, the villains are generically evil, and even though I like the goofy effects, the rest of it is boring.

Golden Venom
Gingers do so have souls!

Saying Golden Venom is not fond of women would be an understatement. Every female character except one is killed, many are sexually degraded, and most are just quickly killed and tossed aside. The only real strong female character is Skeleton, and she’s evil and crazy!

The only real cool thing are the villains and how outlandish they are. The almost cartoonish look seems inspired by the Golden Light Puppets, much like many of Pearl Cheung Ling’s films and other Taiwanese fantasy flicks seem to feature goofy wigs more than other countries. Even though the bad guys look like kids fantasy characters, with the nudity and grossness I doubt this is intended to be a kids flick.

The “Golden Venom” from the title is the name of the mouth laser beams. It’s poisonous and comes in different flavors unique to each family’s secret recipe. Each family also has cures, which can’t be made without the help of the family.

Golden Venom
Welcome to Comicon!!

The presentation is okay, though in this print the subtitles keep changing the names of the characters. This is only a problem because some of the names are cooler than others.

Golden Venom is flawed and is too mean-spirited for my taste. I generally hope for a fun kung fu adventure, not a film walking the line towards being pure exploitation but afraid to pull the trigger. Director Lam Yee-Hung also directed a bunch of terrible Category III flicks before disappearing into the ether. After seeing Golden Venom, I’m wondering why it took so long.

Master Ying Kim (Ku Feng) – Blind patriarch of the Kim family and former police officer. The family’s quest to do what is right causes trouble when this jerk family of monsters decides they should be able to do whatever the heck they want. No one bothers to stand up to them except the Kim family.
Chih Kim (Mark Cheng Ho-Nam) – Master Kim’s son, a cop who keeps the peace, even though some people seem to have a problem with him punishing their family members for raping people. What a jerk, right?
Sister Kim (???) – Master Kim’s daughter doesn’t even get a name, and I don’t know who played her. She then sacrifices for the family (and a female servant then sacrifices for her!) and ultimately pays the highest price.
Cherry (Gam Chi-Gei) – Local girl saved from rape by Chih Kim, who then helps out the Kim family. Cherry’s Grandpa also helps, but he gets killed in the process.
Dragon (Charlie Cho Cha-Lee) – Evil jerk patriarch of the Dragon family, who have goofy hair, goofy family values, and a history of seeking revenge at the cost of everything else.
Skeleton (Siu Yam-Yam) – The evil wife and famed sorceress. Wears a skull necklace. Sometimes the subtitles call her Skeletor, which would have been a cooler name. Siu Yam-Yam is also in Big Bad Sis.
Teh (Jue Gwan-Yeung) – Rapey son of the Dragon clan, also called Puma, but I like Teh better because it’s more Internet. Was punk before punk was cool.
Mystery Guy who helps the Kim’s (Lau Shun) – A former cop who used to work with Master Kim and is partially responsible for blinding him. Feels guilty, so has his daughter Trady become a servant for the Kims and secret helps their battle against the Dragon family.
Golden Venom
I see Starbucks has brought back the pumpkin spice latte…

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