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What’s A Dubstep? (When Movies Fail In Their Satire)

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For every killer witty quip courtesy of talented writing, there’s a groan-inducing puddle of unfunny muck to contrast. Zombified bumbling humor (Black Panther’s “What are those?” meme reference lacking a single iota of inventiveness) manifests alongside laugh-out-loud pizzazz (Thor: Ragnarok’s bundles of charisma-infused gags) to create what we refer to as scripted comedy: a stupendous invention that misses as much as it hits. Certain screenwriters comprehend funniness in the same way that Theresa May comprehends how to effectively behave like a human, not letting on she’s actually a tyrannical space lizard from the moon. Just as said writers will continue to churn out insipid teenager High School narratives and The Big Bang Theory, Theresa May will one day reveal her true form, consuming Britain’s homeless and migrant population via her gaping lizard mouth, before fornicating with Donald Trump on live television. Amongst the aggressive bleeding of miscellaneous orifices and their wrinkly skin flapping about the place like slices of out-of-date ham, they will conceive the anti-christ and doom us all.

Pornographically peculiar political tangent aside, the point at hand is that certain comedy writers fail to deliver the goods due to lacking an understanding towards their subject of ridicule. Ignorant movie jokes only succeed if the audience shares in said ignorance. Spy Kids 3: Game Over portrays video games as a bizarre amalgamation of ridiculous challenges via grotesquely ugly computer imagery. Its creators evidently prioritized coughing up a scrap heap of a narrative as a vehicle to sell their tacky 3D glasses gimmickry, as opposed to creating an endearing family film that lovingly showcases video games via consistently informed representation of the art form. Of course, the third Spy Kids outing is one of many movies that haphazardly glues video games to its subject matter and explores the medium through mere assumptions and speculation as to how they truly operate, further cementing the argument that movies and video games don’t mesh.

Napalm Death live. Many movies explore death metal with a loving understanding of its tropes, but ignorance will always lurk in the crags of popular culture.

Speaking of frequently misunderstood and often ridiculed subjects, perhaps there’re few better examples than dubstep, with Deadpool 2’s recent mishandling of it being the perfect example. Most people loathe dubstep with pugnacious passion, but I’d welcome it with an open embrace. Why? Because I’m one of the rare people that loves it!

From Rusko to Trolley Snatcha, and Doctor P to Zomboy, I’m a sincerely serious superfan. Propelling into mainstream popularity following the Skrillex boom of 2010-ish, songs including “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites,” “First Of The Year (Equinox)”, and smash hit “Bangarang” sold society on savagely screechy ‘n’ wildly wonky sounds nestling atop a bed of pumped up sub-bass. Frequency modulation synthesis was all the rage, and the hipster-esque ex-emo Sonny Moore was the cool as hell dude to listen to. Unsurprisingly, dubstep’s lifespan in the public eye was limited, resulting in its re-submergence into the underground during the years after “Bangarang.” Those that once stuffed their iPods chock-full of the genre now scrambled to aggressively erase it, understanding that showing any semblance of appreciation for a non-currently trendy style of music is the social equivalent of proclaiming “Hitler was misunderstood,” before scooping out an orphan’s kneecaps with a spoon.

Dubstep: Once cool to listen to, now trendy to hate

So what’s the point? Where’s this going? Well, with Deadpool 2 being a kinda recent thing, and with instances of its humor linking to dubstep, let’s take a ganders at how specifically it tackles the divisive genre. Does it boast comprehensive knowledge of dubstep, smartly satirizing its musical properties via freshly unique means, or does it opt for the all too common cringe-inducing ‘Play “Bangarang” and cough up a couple of bumblingly benign quips’?

(Spoiler: It’s the latter.)

Deadpool 2: So what exactly is dubstep?

As Deadpool and Cable wail on one another, “Bangarang” rings out. The red-and-black clad protagonist spouts off as to why he loves dubstep, which would be a compliment if it wasn’t merely an uninspired gag for Deadpool 2 to flop on. Deadpool declaring “I love dubstep” is funny because loving dubstep is a joke, right? Who would actually love such a stupid style of music other than eccentric weirdos and social clowns like Wade Wilson? Dubstep, a genre that’s 140 to 150 beats-per-minute and boasting a half time drum groove, represented by “Bangarang,” a song of 110 beats-per-minute with a standard time drum groove — that’s right, the most popularly recognized dubstep song isn’t actually dubstep. (It’s Moombahcore, which is albeit inspired by modern dubstep sound design, but that’s irrelevant to the point at hand.)

So when Deadpool 2 twists up the banter dial and aligns its crosshairs with dubstep, churning out “Bangarang” as Deadpool and Cable trade remarks concerning the low-hanging fruit musical target feels akin to woefully uninspired spoofing. Perhaps the writers of a movie as monumentally humongous as Deadpool 2 could have performed even a slither of research into their subject of ridicule as opposed to diving in headfirst with a less than surface level knowledge of dubstep and the passionate fanbase surrounding it? Then again, why bother when 99.9% of your audience will share in your ignorance?

Many dubstep artists cite Doctor P as an influence on their sound.

Thanks to artists such as Zomboy, dubstep’s not dead.

There’s nothing wrong with poking fun at musical genres, but it helps to know what you’re talking about. Why is This Is Spinal Tap such an acclaimed rockumentary? Because it fundamentally respects and understands its subject of satire, showing the trials and tribulations of touring mishaps, poor album reviews, and the subsequent rise in tension between bandmates. Why are Steel Panther such a successful parody of glam metal? Because they evidently adore and grasp said genre, indulging in the zany fashion and theatrics of it, whilst demonstrating legitimately competent musicianship to boot. David Brent: Life On The Road authentically portrays the hardships of a struggling touring musician, from empty venues to social isolation to technical mishaps. Metalocalypse flaunts an original soundtrack of death metal courtesy of creator Brendon Small, alongside a wealth of collaborations with esteemed musicians. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping confidently analyzes current aspects of the modern pop-stratosphere, hence its lampooning of them being top notch.

This Is Spinal Tap shows the highs and lows (mostly lows) of a dysfunctional rock band.

Metalocalypse channels ghoulish gore to create an experience both praising and satirizing death metal.

These aforementioned examples of stellar parody share a common characteristic: each one wholly understands the target of its humor, drumming up gags that are factually on point as a result. By contrast, time and time again dubstep has been curb stomped by lazy writers that hold only a wafer thin comprehension of its history and qualities. Key & Peele‘s example of dubstep is grossly produced noise exemplifying the most amateurish, outdated, and plain incorrect qualities of the genre, and too often is this people’s perception of dubstep. Just once I desire to hear a parody of dubstep that’s current, factually accurate, and professional sounding (not dipping into the ten-years-out-of-date wobble bass stylings of the aforementioned Key & Peele example). On that note, I’d argue that Key & Peele‘s iteration of dubstep isn’t music, since it bears no discernible qualities of effective songwriting, coming off rather as a cacophony of random noise over a garbled groove. Actual iterations of dubstep, flaunting dance-able drum patterns, memorable hooks, and smart structure, follow tried-and-tested conventions of songwriting, proving its legitimacy.

Back to Deadpool 2: the thought process of its writers likely played out as “What’s a hot bit o’ music to jab that teenagers will giggle at, whilst simultaneously being a tad bit stylishly niche?” Meanwhile, as audiences cackle at the bad-ness of dubstep, Deadpool 2‘s “Welcome To The Party,” flaunting vocals from child star misogynist himself, Lil Pump, is poured into their gooey ear holes. If a seventeen year-old septic bin bag of a human being rapping “Welcome to the trap, got my Grandma selling crack” is what’s valued as knockout music today, then perhaps I’ll ingest the plethora of drugs Lil Pump rambles about all too frequently and pray to every deity imaginable that I overdose violently.

My own subjective taste in music aside, Deadpool 2 mocking one genre whilst holding another on a pedestal tells the audience “This is the music you should love, and this is the music you should laugh at.” Fueling social bias towards specific genres, this type of comedy tells the audience what to think, as opposed to letting them draw their own conclusions. An example of wonderful writing that encourages audiences to consider multiple perspectives and draw their own conclusions on a divisive subject is The Simpsons’ 1997 episode “The Cartridge Family,” which showcases both sides to the gun ownership argument, a controversial topic still hotly debated over twenty years later.

Maybe death is the sole viable escape to mindlessly braindead dubstep parodies and arrogantly grating rap that flies in the face of the politically charged passion once displayed by N.W.A and Rage Against The Machine, tour de forces that pioneered a medium of skilful wordplay and eloquent lyrical flow. Perhaps one day societies’ attitude regarding dubstep will soften, opening the door to thoughtful humor on the topic. Alternatively, perhaps we’ll die painfully as the gargantuan glowing Sun engulfs our pathetically pitiful Earth. As our eyeballs melt into a pale jelly in their sockets by the searing temperature, we’ll tweet that James Corden’s final carpool karaoke, featuring Death himself as a guest, is “breaking the internet,” whilst remarking that Kylie Jenner’s brand-spanking new range of foreskin cream is “super lit.” Facing our agonizing demise, we’ll expend the dregs of our energy striving to be up to date, irrespective of the horrendous circumstances. Those who are partial to dubstep will spend the sun apocalypse socially isolated, neglected by the popular culture that once loved them. The Chainsmokers will unveil their latest single, a cockily flavourless mickey taking of dubstep, jam-packed with the comedic charisma of a limbless child attempting to flee a tsunami by climbing a step ladder.

With any luck, comedy writers will one day abandon their ignorance towards specific subjects of ridicule, and instead apply a dosage of intelligence to their satire. Everything can — and should — be mocked, but only if said mocking isn’t clutching at straws, picking the lowest hanging fruit via a wishy-washy knowledge of the subject at hand. Perhaps Deadpool 3 will up its satire standard, educating its audiences about its niche topics of ridicule via factually accurate jesting, whilst simultaneously drumming up a hearty laugh that isn’t exploitative of the audience’s ignorance.

Popular dubstep artist FuntCase also had something to say.

Alternatively, perhaps satire will die miserably. The sun doomsday will commence, and humankind will be scorched to a charred crisp still believing that “Bangarang” is a dubstep song.

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Friday Film Noir

‘The Chase’ is a Unique Film Noir that Few Have Seen

The Chase 1946

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The Chase 1946 Film Noir Review

Friday Film Noir

Hunted … haunted … hounded …

*A fair warning to readers: those sensitive to spoilers had best watch the film under review before reading the article. To properly dive into its themes and story, major plot points will be revealed.

Surprises in movies are a great gift the storytellers can offer viewers to wake them from the state of comfort, or boredom depending on whom one asks, which sets in when plot points are too familiar and the dramatic beats too predictable. For some, it can be a chore to get through just as it may offer the right type of simple escapism for others. Sometimes, however, the ingredients need to be shaken and stirred. In an amusing case of coincidence, this week’s column entry, the 1946 film The Chase, arrives only weeks after Steven Soderbergh’s supposed final theatrical feature, Side Effects, opened in theatres. The latter begins with a story which, while perfectly adequate and engaging, morphs into a different beast altogether at a one critical moment. Unsuspecting viewers who take a chance with this Arthur Ripley directed noir are in for a surprise of equal magnitude.

Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings) is a WWII veteran roaming the streets of downtown Miami. He has served his country well during the war, yet his financial situation is rough, to say the least. Upon observing through a restaurant window a cook prepares wonderfully looking beat patties he takes notice of the wallet at his feet. Picking it up and snooping inside he discovers a hefty amount of cold hard cash. He opts to pay himself a swell breakfast before returning the object to its rightful owner, the name of address of which is on a small card in one of the pockets. It turns out the individual concerned, one Eddie Roman (Steve Cochrane), is a filthy rich gangster living in a grand palace none too far away. Always accompanied by his right-hand man Gino, Peter Lorre), Eddie is impressed by Chuck’s honesty for having delivered his lost wallet personally and gives him a job as a chauffeur. Just as things are settling in nicely for Chuck, his employer’s depressed and suicidal wife, Lorna (Michèle Morgan) offers him the chance to run away to Cuba. From there on things get quite complicated, although not always for the reasons some viewers might suspect.

Movies cut from the same cloth as The Chase are always fun to decipher and analyze, even those which fail to pay full dividends on its twists and turns, as is also the case with the film currently under review. It seems as though many films, especially in modern cinema, try far too desperately to shock and awe audiences with sudden twists which ultimately carry little weight in the grander scheme of the plot. They are, to put it bluntly, twists for the sake of twists and nothing more. Then there are films such as Side Effects and The Chase, which totally pull the rug from under the audience’s feat by venturing into territory completely unforeseen. A viewer believes for perfectly understandable reasons they are watching a film that falls under category ‘A’, only for its true nature to be unexpectedly revealed. Of course, in order to properly pull off this sort of a stunt, the movie naturally has to sustain enough dramatic heft. The twist on its own is insufficient. The Chase nearly succeeds in this respect, falling just short of concluding its story with the perfect climax. Nevertheless, the effort is well worth discovering this small yet creative film.

**From this point onward, the review shall delve into spoilers.**

Things start off well enough, with a story about a down on his luck yet all-around decent man falling prey to the desperate need to make any money he can and therefore accepting a job from a very nasty person. Robert Cummings is not an actor who ever went down in movie history as one of the greats, yet his performances are always very engaging. Here, as Chuck, his naturally affable manners come through vividly. His honesty is commendable, yet it brings him to a gangster’s doorstep. It is very easy to cheer Chuck on in his attempt to escort Lorna to safety in Cuba, and considering his experience as a war veteran, it is not difficult to accept his character as a brave individual. Bravery and honesty are admirable qualities, yet they can still get one in trouble, and as Chuck himself explains upon meeting Eddie for the first time, he is just ‘a sucker.’ In this case, he is a sucker for money and for love. Michèle Morgan is very believable as the desperate and depressed Lorna. Eddie has kept her on the tightest leash imaginable for three years, suffocating her as a person. Her desire to escape narrowly outweighs the fear of the risks she incurs by fleeing her nefarious husband. Morgan is also very sensual in her more tender scenes with her male costar, which helps the viewer fall for their relationship. Their high caliber performances prove crucial considering that the script is somewhat inadequate in elaborating on what the time frame is for the chain of events that take them to Cuba and have them fall in love. Strictly in terms of running length, only about 20 minutes have passed since their first scene together and when they admit their passions for one another. Steve Cochrane plays Eddie Roman as a mighty cool cat with a very mean streak. In fact, one could argue he underplays the role even. No temper tantrums or eruptions of rage, just quiet, calculated moves to always gain the upper hand or teach someone some manners. Peter Lorre is similar in how his character nearly seems aloof most of the time to what is going on, yet is also capable of communicating quiet malice.

It is once Chuck and Lorna make it to Havana that the picture makes some dramatic moves, practically turning The Chase into a Twilight Zone episode. Just as he and Lorna are dancing romantically at a nightclub, one of Eddie’s Cuban henchmen somehow murders her with a knife to the back. The leading lady drops dead halfway into the story. The local police only see Chuck as the most likely suspect, which has the movie turn into, for a while at least, a drama about a man wrongfully accused of murder fleeing the authorities. There is some very good tension in this portion, much of it deriving from the fact that there is evidently a ploy against the protagonist, with none other than Eddie pulling the strings all the way from Florida. No matter his pleas, false evidence piles up to make him appear all the guiltier.

As amusing as this portion of the story is, it does not last for the remainder of the running time, for once Chuck, after slipping through the police’s fingers, appears to have stumbled on evidence to prove his innocence…he wakes him in the room where he has been staying since working for Eddie. It was all an intensely vivid dream. It turns out Chuck needs medication to suppress severe anxiety and stress due to wartime trauma. The tiniest of hints was indeed dropped very early in the film, although kudos to anyone who correctly guesses the ebb and flow of this film even with that knowledge in mind. Ultimately, the film ends up being not only a love story between a pampered but oppressed woman and a good man but one that relates to the condition of all too many returning war veterans who must wrestle against the intangible demons of warfare, plagued by psychological and emotional turmoil inconceivable to anybody who has not had the misfortune of engaging in what soldiers have. Noir itself, in more ways than one, often tackles the issues of American society in the waning years of the Second World War and the decade that followed. The cynicism, bitterness, sadness, and frustration that actually existed in society overshadowed many people’s views of what fabled America was like. The real, darker world settled in and noir presented as an exaggerated (and in some respects not so exaggerated) cinematic translation of the resulting anxieties. The Chase is a more literal version in that its protagonist is actually suffering from postwar trauma, all the while offering an unreliable dreamlike evolution of its story. Sadly, the climax is disappointing if only because Chuck suddenly becomes a far more passive character, a strange decision considering how active he was leading up until then.

Faulty climax notwithstanding, The Chase is a very adventurous effort from director Arthur Ripley. It is next to impossible to guess what comes next. The thrill of the unexpected is almost enough to carry the film all the way through on its own, but that would be taking credit away from the fine cast and the effective tension the director builds throughout. Even compared to some of the wilder noir entries, The Chase is definitely a unique specimen.

Edgar Chaput

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Film

Netflix’s ‘Enola Holmes’ is Neither Afoot of Her Older Brother or Her Own Genre

It is neither brilliant nor absolutely rotten, but it is rubbish, to say the least. Enola’s first outing is not afoot of her older brother’s lineup of thrilling interpretations or the film’s broad genre in any way…

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Netflix Enola Holmes

Netflix’s Enola Holmes Review

Despite what you may have already heard, the game is not quite afoot with this one. Netflix’s Enola Holmes is the streaming giant’s latest mystery film based on Nancy Springer’s series of young adult fiction novels starring the younger sister of London’s finest consulting detective Sherlock Holmes- more specifically The Case of the Missing Marquess, the first book in the author’s franchise. For those expecting a mind-bending mystery comparable to BBC’s excellent Sherlock or the exciting Robert Downey Jr. films, you best grab a cabbie and leave before touching this one. Enola Holmes will without a doubt be a fun family film for kids captivated by its promising cast of actors, but any true crime solver will be scurrying from the scene faster than you can say “The Hounds of Baskerville” by the time the second act even hits.

Enola Holmes seems to initially build towards the story of the title character finding her missing mother after she seemingly disappears one morning, but in reality, this story quickly takes a hard turn after its introduction. It manages to become a tale of conquering a characteristic the title character’s name spells backward (alone) all while untangling another family conspiracy that is beyond anticlimactic. There is certainly a mystery to be solved within this flick, but not one you are expecting to find on the surface as Enola Holmes has no idea where exactly its focus should lie. It is constantly jumping between ideas and never manages to find a footing until the third act is in session. Millie Bobby Brown is arguably the main reason Netflix audiences will be flooding to see Enola Holmes and they certainly will not be disappointed by the young Stranger Things actor’s witty performance. However, it might as well be the only aspect worth sitting through in this disrespectful misfortune of an adaptation.

While the actor is certainly flaunting her accent and enjoying her eighteenth-century mishaps, it is just a shame Brown did not get a stronger script to work with. Enola is spunky and clever, but acts like a Deadpool or more so Harley Quinn as she constantly communicates with the audience through wall-breaks- a creative choice that is never properly utilized and results in the movie having to close on an odd note that does not properly bookend the character’s story. The character has no compelling flaws or established reasons as to why her quest is supposed to come off as a challenge for her. Outside of Enola and the young Marquess heir she encounters, the only other interesting talent holding up this story that is worthy of a mention is of course Sherlock Holmes, but he rarely ever appears in the movie or has any importance.

Henry Cavil plays a great Sherlock Holmes except he never receives any moments to truly shine by showing off his masterclass detective skills everyone is constantly on about during the whole film’s two-hour runtime. In fact, by the end of the movie, the character somewhat falls off the high horse as what honestly seems like a simple case flies overtime for him- somehow young Enola can outsmart a veteran Sherlock Holmes? While I am glad they kept Sherlock out of the spotlight as the focus should be on his younger sister, it is hard not to acknowledge the genius consulting detective audiences are accustomed to is just not as quick or clever as he should be. As for the other mainstay characters, Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin) plays a key role yet there is nothing striking to say about Sherlock’s brother who only appears to really throw a wrench into Enola’s plans and generally is portrayed as an idiot rather than the arrogant mastermind that he is supposed to be.

It may seem packed with problems so far- especially when it comes to keeping up with or respecting the source material, but the largest issue Enola Holmes helms is the way in which its mystery unfolds and how it unsuccessfully incorporates its forced theme. In comparison to previous on-screen interpretations of Sherlock Holmes- or even the Enola Holmes novels for that matter if you are the type of reader so keen on not comparing the two characters- the mystery being explored lacks much depth or development from beginning to end. Sure it builds upon the character of Enola in tons of great ways as it shows off her personality and skills adopted from her childhood, but it never truly does what a good mystery story is out to accomplish. Here we have two different stories intertwining, the search for Enola’s mother and the whereabouts of her male friend.

Both are without a doubt compelling ideas except for the fact that the latter abruptly becomes the focus at around the halfway point for what is seemingly going to be a few minutes but ends up being the entire film. On top of this, we have a consistent theme being thrown around that “girls can do anything” which is completely fine, except for the fact that its female lead is, as previously stated, practically flawless and is often played out as superior to everyone else by one-upping her older brothers or being better than the pretty boy who has little character development. The movie takes place during the perfect time period to use feminism as a theme and while it does mention the world’s current politics multiple times it never actually draws a focus towards those enticing problems. The film leaps over so many possible compelling character points and plotlines as it treads around a mystery that is not all that much of an enigma.

Without taking into account the other various pieces of Sherlock Holmes media available- including BBC’s terrific modern take on the franchise which is streaming on the same platform, Enola Holmes is a substandard film that younger audiences will likely more so enjoy than the older folks accustomed to London’s greatest detective. For those completely unaware of the lore behind Sherlock Holmes and are here for the recognizable actors being marketed at the forefront, the cast will without a doubt help end your viewing party on a less than sour note as Brown provides one of her best performances yet in a somewhat fun though messy detective flick. It is neither brilliant nor absolutely rotten, but it is rubbish, to say the least. Enola’s first outing is not afoot of her older brother’s lineup of thrilling interpretations or the film’s broad genre in any way.

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Shaw Bros. Spotlight

‘The Boxer from Shantung’ Does Not Aim High Enough

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The Boxer from Shantung

Anyone who has seen just a few Shaw martial arts films has noticed a trend: all of the stories transpire centuries ago, during the era of the many Chinese dynasties. The beautiful costumes, the intricate set designs, the legendary figures upon which writers and directors can find inspiration, the admiration of tactical warfare during the times, all of these and much more are reasons why the studio chose to set its stories in the distant past. As with all rules, there are exceptions. Just as not every single Shaw film is martial arts-based, not everyone is a period piece either. This week, the column takes a look at yet another Chang Cheh picture, The Boxer From Shantung, although this one is set in the 20th century in the city of Shanghai.

Ma Yung Chen (Chen Kuan-Tai) and Hsiao Chiang Pei (Cheng Kang-Yeh) are two friends working blue-collar shifts making water pipes for the city of Shanghai. The pay is as small as their landlord’s attitude is deplorable. While Chiang Pei is a rather fun-loving character, honest, friendly, uninterested in creating mischief, Yung Chen is cut from an altogether different cloth. His desire to leave their lifestyle far behind is far more ferocious. Determined to make a name for himself and his friends, along with earning tons of cash, Yung Chen’s rambunctious attitude almost gets him in deep trouble when stumbling upon the evil doings of a local mob, ‘The Four Champions’, whose leader, Boss Yang (Chiang Nan), does not take kindly to intruders. Lucky for Yung Chen, he knows a near-impenetrable style of boxing studied back home in Shantung. The volatile and cocky young man beats the living daylights out en entire hoard of Yang’ men. On that same day, he earns the favourable opinion of another, more benevolent boss, Tan Si (Chang Cheh regular David Chiang). With plenty of friends to help him out and a powerful, newly found ally in Boss Tan Si, Ying Chen makes his way up in the world as an enforcer, a protector, and finally a boss.

The Boxer from Shantung

The Boxer from Shantung may appear as a unique experience for its setting but said uniqueness is mostly a deception. Yes, a tale of gangsters in a much more modern setting does make for a fresh change of pace. The greater truth of the matter is that the screenwriter and directors (two principle directors for a single film being a first so far as this column is concerned) emulate the exact type of story familiar to fans of gangster flicks. Boxer is, at its core, a ‘rise and fall’ story, with the central character, the charismatic Yung Chen, works his way through the concrete jungle of gang warfare amongst heated rivals in order to make a living for himself, as well as gain increasing wealth and influence over local businesses and prominent individuals. Hence, the general story arc reserves few surprises for the audience, following the genre’s blueprints to near perfection, which is a bit of a shame given that one hopes that with an entirely new setting would liberate the filmmakers from the some of the tropes. Instead, they opt to follow the predictable plot points beat for beat, with only precious little signs of deviation, one example being the development of the love angle. There are not too many false notes per se, but the lack of chances taken is unfortunate.

The Boxer from Shantung somehow goes for something new, yet lacks originality…

It is a little strange to be watching a Chang Cheh (partially) directed film which features David Chiang playing only a supporting role. Chiang is a loveable type of actor, who can win an audience thanks to his easy charm and wit, and therefore the actor taking center stage has some rather big shoes to fill. In the case of Boxer, that actor is Chen Kuan-Tai, who fills is a perfect fit for said shoes, bringing his own brand of energy to the fold. It is always reassuring to see young, up and coming actors bring the best they have to offer right off the bat. Chen Kuan-Tai is definitely the sort of performer who adds barrels of life to a scene. It helps that the character he plays is cocky, street smart, ambitious, and remarkably gifted in the martial arts of his home province. It may be guessed that since the script treks a familiar path, the film could be used as a vehicle of sorts for young Chen Kuan-Tai. It does not necessarily make the film better, but the film’s star is now someone readers may want to peel their eyes for from now on. A little bit of credit should be shared with his co-star, Cheng Kang-Yeh. While he does play the supporting role, serving mostly as comic relief more than anything else, the performance is a fun one, if a little bit on the cheesy side.

The Boxer from Shantung

The necessity for not one but two directors is one to cause perplexity. As has already been written in this review, the story is easy to follow due to its familiarity, therefore causing one to wonder how exactly Chang Cheh and Pao Hsueh Lieh collaborated on the project. There are few tonal inconsistencies and it is fair to wonder if their dual participation has anything to do with it. Some scenes are filled to the brim with energy and spunk, whereas others fall incredibly flat, lacking any momentum whatsoever. Oddly enough, the scene introducing David Chiang’s mob boss character is one such scene, in which he playfully taunts Ma Yung Chen, who at that point is just a nobody in the underworld, wandering the streets looking for a job opportunity. The scene is abnormally long, with each subsequent character reaction delayed for some unexplained reason, not to mention that there is no music, thus making it seem all the more hollow. This happens on a few occasions throughout the film and every time it plays out very strangely.

The action, when it erupts, is not of the most imaginative variety (nor is star Chen Kuan-Tai the most impressive fighter, moving a little bit slowly all things considered, even though he does give it is all), but what it lacks in creativity it makes up for in scale. Almost every single action scene involves the protagonist, sided with perhaps a couple of allies, fending off armies of Boss Yang’s men, many of whom enjoy attacking with little hatchets. These brawls en up being rather fun romps, wit plenty of bodies running, flipping, and falling all over the place. The best is saved for last, as Chen Kuan-Tai finds himself all alone against Yang, his strongest enforcers, and tons of other hoodlums inside a tea shop, fighting on both the second and first floors. To top it off, he receives a hatchet to the stomach, but of course, refuses to back down and takes out as many villains as he can anyhow.

There are a few significant opportunities that are lost in Boxer. Providing the film which a context so vastly different from the majority of other Shaw productions, in addition to favouring a lesser-known actor in the lead role with the more accomplished ones serving the secondary participation brought with it plenty of potential. Admittedly, upon learning that Chang Cheh had in fact directed a more contemporary action film, this martial arts fan’s curiosity was very much aroused. Ultimately, it gets the job done, which still means something at the very least. It is a competently made production. The problem is that it does not aim high enough.

-Edgar Chaput

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