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The Asian ApertureThe Chinese Boxer
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, July 15, 2012    Share

Jimmy Wang Yu was the number one Hong Kong action star in the 60ís before something happened that no one else saw coming. Jimmyís best work was in 1970 with The Chinese Boxer, the movie that marked a transition away from swordplay to hand to hand combat and was revolutionary at the time.

The Chinese Boxer is a Shaw Brothers production presented in Shaw Scope that fans of 70ís kung fu cinema canít get enough of. It starts out with guys dressed in kung fu uniforms practicing kung fu at a local kwoon. Then some deranged gentleman rudely stomps inside and challenges everyone to a fight. He is looking for the Master to truly test himself.

He boldly explains that his judo will defeat kung fu. After a few fights, the Master appears and schools him, sending him limping to the door. He promises to return with friends.

At a lecture, the Master explains that the difference between karate and kung fu is that karate is violent and used to kill or maim and the kung fu is more humane. One student asks if kung fu can defeat karate and the Master says it can be done if the student is agile and develops iron hands.

As was typical in Jimmy Wang Yuís movies, the villains are Japanese, so the judo guy returns with his two Japanese friends and they literally tear the kwoon apart. Knocking out walls and killing students with one or two moves involving eye gouges and broken noses. Enter Yuís character who tries to take on the judo guys only to get trashed. Even the Master dies.

Now the Japanese have taken over and are running a gambling house. They extort money from the locals, one young woman is raped, and many die that recall the Nanking Massacre on a smaller scale.
Meanwhile, Jimmy is resting with a bandage over his forehead as his girlfriend takes care of him.

Learning that his Master is dead, Jimmy leaps up only to collapse due to his wounds. He asks his girlfriend to bring him weights and iron shavings.

Later, Yu wears the weights around his ankles and jogs around the community. He attempts to jump over a pole several times before he succeeds. Then he raises the bar higher. He fearlessly punches the iron shaving until his hands are raw and bleeding, then after they heal, he repeats the process until his fists become iron. Now he is combat ready.

He intervenes when his fellow Chinese are being beaten for money. Word spreads and now the fight is on with the Japanese, who bring in two Samurai sword experts to help out. Yu takes them all on.

The Chinese Boxer is fairly standard for kung fu movies. You have Japanese villains, you have one guy fighting multiple opponents, and you have training sequences. However, a few main ingredients are missing. One, you donít have believable action scenes. In a battle inside a restaurant you see Yuís leg sweep barely touch his opponentís leg and the stuntman overreacts and jumps backwards off camera. In fact few of the blows having any real power including the end fight with the Japanese where Yu barely touches his opponentís chest with only his fingertips as massive amounts of blood spray out. The fighting is very unrealistic and weak for the amount of damage that is caused. Second, Jimmy Wang Yu lacks a strong onscreen presence. If you saw him walking down the street, he would look ordinary and extremely weak. When fighting without his shirt, he looks too skinny with very little muscle tone.

Everything that was wrong in The Chinese Boxer would change in 1971 with a young actor would burst on the screen and take Jimmy Wang Yuís number one position and box office draw.
That was when The Big Boss debut with Bruce Lee. With Bruce you got the powerful and realistic combat. His blows looked like they could hurt you. More importantly, you got a strong onscreen presence that was in your face, punching and kicking at you before you could do anything about it.

In fact, before making The Big Boss, Bruce watched the best Kung Fu movies and on a TV interview said that the quality was low but he was hopefully that it would improve. Lee generated a powerful revolution that is still felt today.

Still, The Chinese Boxer has some good moments and it is important to watch a kung fu movie pre-Bruce Lee, so you can see how he changed it and forced it to go in a new direction.

Jimmy Wang Yu is a good actor, despite looking weak, and has a wholesomeness about him that an audience can believe in. If only he could perform a punch that had power.


3 out of 5 Stars.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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