22 September 2007 | BrianDanaCamp
MAN OF IRON good Shaw Bros. vehicle for kung fu star Chen Kuan Tai
MAN OF IRON (1972) was positioned as something of a follow-up to BOXER FROM SHANTUNG (1972), the rise-and-fall story of Ma Yung Chen (also reviewed on this site), and it reunites the directors and some of the cast in a similar but much slighter tale of a lesser gangster's rise and fall in Shanghai. While the opening narration specifically recalls the events and tragic conclusion of BOXER, this one is set 20 years later in the same section of Shanghai but otherwise has nothing to do with the events or characters of the previous film.
It's basically a tale of gang warfare in post-war Shanghai (although the sets and most of the costumes look much older) that begins when an "upstart," Chou Lian Huan, played by Chen Kuan Tai (also the star of BOXER), takes a liking to the socialite mistress (Ching Li) of the son of the city's reigning crime boss (Yang Chih-Ching). He even rides a motorcycle through the patio doors of her elegant house and into the parlor and fights off her bodyguards to get her attention. The old crime boss, disgusted with his own son's wastrel ways, actually takes a liking to Chou and lets him have the woman. This provides a wedge for another crime boss to start a war to take over the city's criminal network.
To make a not-so-long-story short, Chou finds himself battling dozens of henchmen wielding clubs and knives (apparently no one has any guns left over from the war) in a series of brutal kung fu fights that are more realistic than usual because of Chou's strategy of ruthless thrusts, punches, kicks and elbow blows designed to maim and disable his opponents as quickly and surely as possible. Fortunately, the film is filled with such fights and they keep one's interest throughout.
The on-screen chemistry between Chen Kuan Tai and his female co-star, Ching Li (a leading Shaw Bros. star who was also in BOXER), is quite strong and includes some tender and romantic scenes (after, of course, she gets over his initial rough treatment of her).