Rage of the Master (1971 according to IMDB, 1972 according to HKMDB)
Director: Wang Hung Chang
Writers: Not known
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Li Yi-Min and Chiao Chiao

The Plot: The film begins with a kung fu school being challenged by a former friend of the master. This “friend” trained with the master originally, and was put out of their school when he was reported for a serious indiscretion. However, he comes prepared to take on this kung fu school and have his revenge. He brings with him a collection of Thai boxers, who then quickly dispatch of all students. The master, before being surrounded, orders his daughter to leave the school and go out to find help. When she does just this, she reports to some family friends. Knowing that they have no martial skill, they instead think about local talents who may be able to help. The first name that pops into their mind is Tiger Wong (Jimmy Wang Yu), the son of a martial arts legend who was trained specifically by his father. The problem is, Tiger Wong’s mother holds him to a promise that was made to his dead father. Wong is never to show off his martial prowess, and instead must commit himself to a life of manual labor. Will they manage to talk Tiger Wong into helping them, despite his mother’s wishes? Or will these nefarious Thai boxers continue to dominate this small village.

The Review
Jimmy Wang Yu is a actor and filmmaker who mapped out a very rare career path. Success for the actor came early, and his career would prove to be one that was filled with both creativity and imagination. Unfortunately, so much of his career remains lost to modern kung fu fans. His work is a mixed assortment of films that are completely insane spectacles, as well as some very unique dissections of the martial arts genre in general. In recent years, he has seen both a surge in popularity as well as a damaging attack on his reputation. When Master of the Flying Guillotine was first released on DVD, it seemed as if Jimmy Wang Yu may have finally hit the peek in his cult popularity. With all of this sudden attention, it seemed as if more of his work might also receive similar treatment in the future. Unfortunately, this never really came into fruition. It was as if audiences loved Master of the Flying Guillotine, but were not interested in the other wild works to feature Jimmy Wang Yu. Then, after a few years, the documentary Not Quite Hollywood introduced the actor to modern audiences as the foul and racist Chinese tourist who showed no manners during the creation of The Man From Hong Kong. Whether or not this will have a adverse effect upon his current popularity has yet to be seen, but hopefully audiences will instead look to this man’s creative output in order to make a decision upon him as a artist. Whether or not he was a classy guy when he stepped off the set, I can assure you that Jimmy Wang Yu made many more films than just Master of the Flying Guillotine. While Rage of the Master may not be his very best work, it does shown the underlying themes that dominate his filmography. It also shows how to make a very generic kung fu film into something highly entertaining!

Unlike many of the films that Wang Yu is best known for, Rage of the Master is a slow burn in comparison. After the introductory fight sequence, it takes the movie quite a while before it establishes any further action set pieces. This isn’t such a bad thing, especially if the narrative is interesting, but Rage of the Master is a mixed bag in that regard. On the positive side of things, we do get to see Jimmy Wang Yu play a character unlike many of those that he has played in his varied career. Normally he’s the stoic hero who stands up for all that is right, without a care for anyone that might stand in his way. Rage of the Master at least throws Wang Yu into the role of a conflicted soul who must do some serious soul searching before stepping up as the resilient monster that we all know him to be. While it isn’t a massive departure for the actor, this is one of the few times I have seen him deal with a great deal of drama. Similar to his role in the original One Armed Swordsman, this is Wang Yu really delving into the emotions of his character.

It almost seems as if Jimmy Wang Yu refused to sign on for any project unless it featured a battle between multiple martial arts of some sort. This dominant theme wouldn’t be so unusual if this were a director that we are talking about, but it seems very peculiar for one actor to be featured in so many films that feature such similar content. It seems that Wang Yu simply became incredibly well known as the defender of Chinese kung fu during his prime. Although Rage of the Master only focuses on two different martial art styles (as opposed to the five or six that pop up in the One-Armed Boxer series), it manages to give a higher cinematic ceiling to show off the Muay Thai style. Unfortunately, the representation of Muay Thai isn’t as well done as in other Wang Yu films. Within the film, it seems as if Muay Thai is shown to lack power, and instead it seems as if it focuses highly on speedy jabs. Real Muay Thai, however, is obviously not distinguished in such a way. The art of eight limbs has never looked so ineffective… and yet it continually beats Chinese kung fu throughout the film.

While the slow progress of the narrative seems to steer this film into some very generic waters, the culminating knife battle in the final twenty minutes more than secures it at least one additional point in its overall rating. When you follow this knife fight up with Wang Yu’s final battle on the beach with the previously mentioned Muay Thai group, the movie finds a really solid way to end despite all of the woefully overwrought plotting. I do not intend to give away much about the final fight sequence, but it does manage to deliver on all of the heightened drama. Wang Yu and his style of martial arts made for something unique, and Rage of the Master perfectly demonstrates this. I always like to equate Wang Yu to Japanese screen legend Sonny Chiba. These two men practiced very different martial arts, but the similarity they shared was in the amount of effort they put behind their blows. When either actor threw a punch for a movie, they didn’t so much throw a punch at a person as it seems they tried to punch through them. Their wild swinging, and seemingly uncoordinated haymakers were every bit a part of their charm, and each actor found a way to make this style their own.

The Conclusion
Rage of the Master is better than many martial art titles that you are going to find on the cheap boxsets that you will find it packed in, but it probably isn’t anywhere close to being one of Jimmy Wang Yu’s greatest accomplishments. It does, however, show a lot of the things that make his movies so special. Ultimately, I give it a solid three out of five. It is a very enjoyable movie, even if it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.