Issue #200a           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES       February 23rd, 2004

Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

The Boxer from Shantung
(1972; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Ma Wing-jing
Mandarin: Ma Yongzhen
English: Ma Wing-jing or Ma Yongzhen
Alternate English Title: Killer from Shantung


RATING: 7/10


Larger-than-life Shaw Brothers star Chen Kuan-tai enjoyed his first lead role as the title character of this familiar but engrossing period effort. Arriving in Shanghai with no money and no prospects, brawny Ma Yongzhen (Chen) and meek cohort Xiao Jangbei (Cheng Hong-yip) struggle to survive from day-to-day. Ganglord Tan Si (David Chiang Da-wei) is impressed by Ma's kung fu but the proud young man envies the crime boss and is reluctant to ask for his help. Ma defeats hoodlums in the employ of rival boss Yang (Chiang Nan) and goes on to best a Russian wrestling champ (Mario Milano) the gang imported. Although he refuses Yang's invitation to join the organization, Ma is gradually corrupted by the adulation displayed by the common folk, who enjoyed watching him defeat the hoods that had been hitting them up for protection money. Now, they very willingly offer Ma the same fees and, with easy money staring him in the face, his ambitions grow.

Chen Kuan-tai  David Chiang  Mario Milano and Chen Kuan-tai

Although Chang Cheh co-directed this picture with Pao Hsueh-li (with a young John Woo serving as assistant director), THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG very much adheres to Chang's favorite themes. The emphasis here is on how brotherhood can be engendered not simply through the normal bonds of friendship but also via the utmost respect for one's role models. The viewer expects Ma Yongzhen to eventually start working for Tan and then help him to vanquish Yang but that never occurs. In fact, Chen and Chiang have very little screentime together; the film instead posits that the two men would share an affinity based on the fact that they are far more honorable than the ever-scheming Yang (Tan's extortion fees are low and Ma allows vendors extra time to pay up when business is bad). This is not really any more logical than the bond that develops between Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee in THE KILLER but we buy into it because the characters are so vivid and compelling. Whether expressing pleasure over his newfound status or battling against dozens of knife and hatchet wielding attackers, Chen effortlessly commands the screen. Even when the length and violence of the final battle freely flirts with absurdity, Chen's force of nature presence almost makes you believe that this one man just might indeed be able to withstand the incredible punishment being heaped upon him. As mentioned, David Chiang mostly functions as a guest star here but is suitably charming and energetic in his scenes to successfully personify the ideal that Ma hopes to emulate. Ching Li (wasted in an entirely superfluous role as a singer Ma falls for), Ku Feng, Tin Ching, Fung Hark-on, Wong Ching, Yam Sai-kwoon, and Ho Pak-kwong are among the large cast. A very disappointing remake of BOXER was undertaken by Corey Yuen Kwai in 1997 as HERO, with Takeshi Kaneshiro a disastrously poor choice to play Ma.

Ching Li (left)  Ku Feng and Chen Kuan-tai  Chen Kuan-tai and Tin Ching


The presentation looks exceptionally good and the liberally shed "Shaw Brothers gore" is a stark theatrical red. Also, unlike some of the older transfers, the image stays pin sharp throughout 99.9% of the running time. The re-mixed audio features that bird chirping foley effect that HK sound engineers seem to love so dearly, and the haphazard addition of what might be called "restaurant foley" (diners chatting, plates clanking, etc) defeats the whole point of a brief teahouse scene near the end of chapter 5 (the modification is reportedly not included on the VCD release). Once again, the original trailer is not on offer but we do get some video promo spots, two photo galleries, and bios/filmographies. Also included is a featurette called "Three Styles of Hong Fist" (7 mins), which is a re-edited and re-scored version of "The Three Styles of Hong's School Kung Fu," which Celestial accidentally left off of the DVD for HEROES TWO (reviewed in issue #160). In it, Chen Kuan-tai, Alexander Fu Sheng, and Chi Kuan-chun demonstrate various aspects of the discipline.

This DVD is available at:

All images included in this issue are courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read the captions, hover mouse over image.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release NTSC – Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #101564
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.36:1)
  • 124 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 18 (cut by 4 seconds)
  • Hong Kong: IIB
  • Ontario: R (cut)
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • Contains brutal martial arts violence and extensive bloodshed


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful