25 December 2007 | sidyaqub
Rags to riches... but is it all that it's made out to be??
This 1970's Shaw Brothers studio epic from legendary director Chang Cheh still seems to be as increasingly watchable to this day.
Chen Kuan Tai stars as Ma Yong Zhen, a street urchin in 1930's Shanghai who gets by washing carriages for the upper-class. But he desires more, he wants to have his own power, wealth and status in the city of Shanghai. After a couple of errands with the Four Dragon's gang, Ma gets the recognition he yearns for and is seen as a saviour to the poor and begins his parade by taking over districts in Shanghai. Soon the power and status he has craved for begins to crumble the inner-happiness he has longed for.
The film has proved to be very influential to this day, as John Woo was assistant director and the Four Dragon's gang was also used in Stephen Chow's 'Kung Fu Hustle' (but known as the Axe Gang), the finale of Ryo Seung Wan's 'City of Violence' also bears resemblance to the finale of 'Ma Yong Zhen'. Chen proves to be a worthy lead as his appearance and performance comes as very empathetic and proves quite adequately in fight sequences. Chang Cheh regular David Chiang plays a small role but sadly shows very little martial arts skills. The fights are somewhat average, if not very bloody but the story line, the central performances, the cinematography and the music score make this film stand out as an evergreen classic. What drew me into this film was it's cool and slick opening sequence (kind of like Chang Cheh's 'Vengeance') it creates the atmosphere of mystery, danger, rage and excitement.
All I can say is if you can see a worthy version of this movie (sadly there's no DVD released in the UK yet) go and see it. But I'm sure other DVD distributors in other countries have released the full uncut version of this classic.