Written, starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, The Chinese Boxer moved martial arts films away from fantasy and weapons into a world where one man and his fists could do plenty of damage.
Jimmy Wang Yu was a martial arts superstar in Hong Kong before even Bruce Lee and this movie proves exactly why. I’ve honestly never seen a bloodier hand to hand combat film, as nearly every punch sends mouthfuls of blood everywhere when they’re not blasting people through walls.
Diao (Hsiung Chao, Five Fingers of Death) was thrown out of the kung fu temple and spent years learning judo, defeating each of the students of the school upon his return until the master defeats him. Not being a man of honor, he sends for Japanese karate mercenaries, who are also defeated, until he sends samurai who not only destroy the school and murder all of the kung fu students and the master but also have the gall to take over the town and make it a city of sin.
Lei Ming (Jimmy Wang Yu) has survived, however, and he’s willing to do anything and everything to take his town back. You may think you’ve seen this before — and you have — but that’s because every other movie like this came after. A training sequence, much less one where the hero punches his hands into burning sand to toughen them? Yep. A room full of men with weapons and one unarmed hero? Here. A man fighting for the honor of his dead master? This is where it all began at least in film form.
There’s also the bad guy KItashima (Lo Lieh, nearly a Shaw Brothers supervillain) who can chop tables in two and provides a more than perfect secondary villain for our hero to fight. And it all looks astounding, because it shares a cinematographer — Hua Shan — with one of the most kinetic and strange movies that Shaw Brothers put out, The Super Infra-Man. Just one look at the fight in the snow and you’ll know that this is a movie to be studied just as much as it was stolen from.
It’s gorgeous and the 88 Films blu ray release makes it look even better. The Chinese Boxer also has audio commentary by critic and author Samm Deighan, an interview with Wong Ching, a feature from David West and the U.S. Hammer of God TV commercial. You can get it from MVD or Diabolik DVD.