1972 • Hong Kong • Directed by Cheh Chang, Hsueh-Li Pao
By 1972, Chang Cheh was already Shaw Brothers’ most prolific and well-known director with a plethora of box office hits (including the One-Armed Swordsman franchise) to his name and renowned for discovering the hottest young talents to star in his films. In The Boxer from Shantung (co-directed with Pao Hsueh-li), Chang’s brutal and bloody retelling of a real-life Chinese rags-to-riches story introduced a new action icon in Chen Kuan-tai (playing the title role) and would prove a key influence on a young man working on-set as an assistant director named John Woo.
In 1920s Shanghai, no one pays the dirt-poor Ma Yongzhen (Chen Kuan-tai) any attention – until he proves himself easily capable of knocking down all-comers in a street fight, where his talents are encouraged by local gang boss Tan Si (David Chiang). Soon, Ma is carving out his own territory in the city and punching his way up the criminal ladder, step by step… but will his deadly fists be enough to get him out of the trap that awaits him?