2 February 2005 | mj970128-1
prologue 6 epilogue are quite fine, between them is a good film, but not an outstanding one
Occasionally too gluey Eastern about the rising of Ma Yongzhen [ Chen Kuan Tai, in the German title he's giving a pirate, not a boxer ] , who hast to recognize later, the air up there is quite thin. The formal data's of the movie are quite impressing: John Woo as assistant director, Chen Kuan Tai became one the Top Actors thru it, it's with KING BOXER and FIST OF FURY one of THE influential movies of the time, followed by a somehow sequel [ IRON MAN ] and a remake [ Corey Yuen Kwai's HERO, with Takeshi Kaneshiro and the then-comeback of Yuen Biao ].
An epic is aimed, the premise is well, but due to the missing pace and the lacking dramatic and elaboration it isn't reached. The action scenes are either rigid or way too exaggerated, and some sequences could have been cut; a running time of 2hrs is too much for that. For example the Wrestling episode, which is terribly long, but also some sections with Ching Li as eye-catcher and secret love interest of Ma Yongzhen, which adds nothing at all to the film. So there's only struggle to the next, the opponents are always increasing, Ma himself is little impressed by that. At the end he runs around a tea house, collapsing it and beating the sh*t out of estimated 200 thugs, and already has an Axe cut in his belly. Thats too silly.
Movie has sure his strengths, production values is as high as the body count, Chen Kuan Tai does very well in his first leading role, there's an expanded cameo of David Chiang and the gangster story is something new, compared to the usual revenge - plot. The prologue and epilogue are quite fine, between them is a good film, but not an outstanding one.