Judge David Johnson boxes shadows with the best of them.
The latest to be sprung from the Shaw Brothers vault stars an actor-on-the-rise who died at the age of 24 and a gentler, more laid-back brand of kung fu.
Facts of the Case
Not really. Despite the film's opening, which outlines the pluses of Tai Chi, how it's used to displace an opponent's strength and use it against him, it's pretty clear that Ku Ting (Chen Wo-Fu), the titular "Shadow Boxer," is as interested in beating the @#$% out of dudes as anyone. He just waits way too long to do it.
Before his adventure is done, Ku Ting will get himself mixed up in an organized labor controversy, square off with the most powerful and corrupt gangsters in the land, and violently avenge the assault on a lady friend. Shadow boxing or no, someone's going to suffer a severe beatdown.
I guess they can't all be classics. Though I've generally come to enjoy the steady stream of Shaw Brothers martial arts extravaganzas that have filtered through the home video pipeline, this one doesn't do a whole lot for me.
Chen Wo-Fu has some moves, though his particular brand of ass-kickery didn't leap out at me as anything bigger or better than the myriad of generic chopsocky I've seen. Worse, the guy doesn't really get his groove on until the very end of the film, biding his time by getting slapped around and grimacing while people suffer around him. He's not a huge fan of unleashing the smackdown, resistant all the way until the scumbag-extraordinaire-of-a-heavy sexually assaults his girlfriend. That finally convinces Ku Ting to mix things up. And the result is…
…okay. The final fight sequences are lengthy and nearly make up for the ocean of not-a-whole-lot-happening that preceded them. Length is about all the fighting has going for it. The punches and kicks fly with fury and there is certainly some athleticism on display, but I can't recall a single thing I watched that made me sit up, take notice, and mentally preserve the moment to run past my kung fu loving friends.
Strike that. There was one thing in Shadow Boxer that was noteworthy, but in a decidedly dubious way. It was the rape scene, the assault that propels our hero to finally get his neck-punching on. I am simply befuddled by the way director Pao Hsueh-Li shot this thing. The bad guy accosts the girl and tears off her clothes. She screams and covers her breasts, then he grabs her arms and the camera zooms in on her nipple. I get the tight zooms to the actor's faces—that's par for the course for these kung fu movies—but on the exposed breast of a woman in the middle of a sexual assault? Thanks guy for making me feel like a convicted sex offender!
The DVD is basic, highlighted solely by its terrific 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The mono soundtrack (Mandarin) is about what you'd expect. No extras.
The only thing I'll remember Shadow Boxer for is its inappropriate cinematography.
You know what would have made Shadow Boxer better? Shadow puppets.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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