One Armed Boxer/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
When it comes to kung fu movies, The One Armed Boxer is a true head-scratcher. It seldom shows up on many best kung fu movie lists and seems to be mostly forgotten when it comes to kung fu movie lore which is a shame because it is a movie that should be more known than it is. Part of the problem is that Jimmy Wang Yu had done a similar story previously with The One Armed Swordsman, a movie that caused him to explode as a Chinese superstar. While the follow up to One-Armed Boxer, Master of the Flying Guillotine later became one of his most beloved films and is widely regarded as a grindhouse-kung fu masterpiece.
Jimmy Wang Yu is one of the many Chinese actors who were brushed aside by the hurricane that swept across China: Bruce Lee. This mostly happened due to his lack of genuine martial arts skills. In the case of many of those actors (Jimmy Wang Yu included), the lack of real fighting skills can sometimes be obvious in some of their movies. The difference with Wang Yu is what he lacked in martial arts skills, he more than made up for with charisma to scorch the silver screen. It's also safe to say that he was one of the most handsome actors to grace Asian action cinema. All this more than comes in handy when he is jumping around trying to kick and chop his way through a multitude of adversaries in this movie and you are somehow convinced that this man IS capable of what he is doing onscreen.
The great thing about the kung fu genre is its ability to take a one-sentence plotline and turn it into so much more. For example, "A dying teacher instructs his final student to check on the activities of five former pupils" becomes Five Deadly Venoms or "A student of kung fu meets resistance on his way to a major Chinese tournament" becomes Five Fingers of Death. The same way, One-Armed Boxer also seems to follow the outwardly simple "student avenges master of kung fu school" storyline. But then its as if Wang Yu decided to take his own movie The Chinese Boxer and turn it on its head by making the protagonist go up against martial artists from across Asia instead of just a gang from Japan and with one arm no less. It always amazes me that despite kung fu being built on Zen and Taoist principles, many of the masterpieces in the genre are driven by acts of ego where a small slight against one person can turn into an all-out war. The same thing pretty much happens here but it doesn't matter when the rest of the movie is so entertaining.
When it comes to the movie itself, there are a number of memorable sequences in it, and what I would consider the centerpiece or highlight would be the fight at the midpoint wherein Wang Yu and his schoolmates take on the martial arts masters who are hell-bent on destroying the school. The moment when he loses his arm, though inevitable (its called the One-Armed Boxer for Christ's sake!) is still shocking because of how swiftly it ends. Also great is the montage where he is trying to train himself to fight with one arm which is exactly the kind of training that comes with a statutory warning to not try at home. Despite that, it's still cool to see him literally put his surviving hand through the grinder. The climax is also great with Wang Yu taking on the martial arts masters individually and goes through them like a knife through butter before eliminating the "big boss". The best among them is an Indian (?) martial artist who has a unique way of confusing his opponents before taking them down and I have to say I did find it delightful when Wang Yu uses his own technique to defeat him.
If you are a fan of the martial arts genre, then this is a movie that should be on your watch list. Sure it is a movie that is destined to live in the shadow of not only its own gonzo and bonkers sequel, but also many other kung fu masterpieces that regularly show up on the greatest kung fu movies lists. Trust me folks, it will be worth your time.