|The Prodigal Boxer (1974)|
|Starring:||Meng Fei, Li Lin-Lin and Yasuaki Kurata|
|The Plot: The Prodigal Boxer opens with our leading man, Fong Sai-yuk (played by Men Fei), playing a betting game between his friends and a few rough customers. He bets that his insect can beat theirs in a battle to the death, and before you know it Fong Sai-yuk’s insect is the only one left standing. This of course leads to a fight between the two groups, but unfortunately this small fight leaves a man dead. Fong doesn’t realize the severity of this man’s injuries, and leaves before anyone actually realizes that the man was killed during the brawl. This dead man seems to have belonged to a local martial arts school, which is in turn run by two deadly brothers. These two specialize in one technique each. One brother handles teaching the students punching techniques, and the other specializes in kicking. Together, they seem almost invincible, and this proves to be bad news for our protagonist. When the two brothers find out that Fong has killed one of their best students, they begin a search for the rebellious young teen. This leads them to Fong Sai-yuk’s home, where they run into his family. A huge battle ensues and Fong’s father is killed during the attack, and his mother is left beaten. When Fong Sai-yuk returns home, he discovers the consequences of his actions and looks to get revenge. His mother, however, refuses to tell him who committed this horrible crime, because she realizes that Fong is not capable of beating these two men. Not yet, at least. She intends to travel with him to the country side, and together they will train until he has the strength to beat these two monsters.
Films like these are generally relegated as purely entertaining forms of cinema, without a lot of brains behind their actions. For the most part, some of these criticisms are true. However, there are filmmakers who do manage to understand the lyricism of film and try to use that to their advantage in crafting a very strong piece of action cinema. I get the feeling that our filmmaker today is very much one who stands in that category. The character depth given in this film far exceeds what is expected from the genre, and although it remains a pure action film, there’s a certain amount of realism to the picture that I enjoy. Death, for example, is treated in a very realistic fashion in the opening of the film. In these movies, so often bodies seem to pile up without any of the emotional turmoil that normally comes with death. Fong Sai-yuk kills a man in our opening, but he doesn’t even realize it because he doesn’t consider the long term effects of his own actions. Then, when his father dies, we get to see the sense of loss that his character truly has. In a very strong scene, we see Fong Sai-yuk go through a series of emotional ups and downs when first confronted with his father’s passing. Young actor Meng Fei does a splendid job with the role, and during these tough scenes he steps up to the plate with an admirable sense of conviction. The film gives face to the remorse and impact that death fills us with, and although the movie does not become melodramatic, this is far greater drama than one expects from a run-of-the-mill kung fu romp.