Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Prodigal Boxer II (1976)

Director: Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun

Notable Cast: Mang Fei, Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, Doris Lung Chun-Erh, Liu Ping, Wei Ping-Ao, Hsieh Han, Yi Yuan, Ma Chiang, Huang Fei-Long, Li Min-Lang, Chang Fang-Hsia, Eagle Lee Siu-Fei, Wang Pao-Yu

Also known as: Enter the Whirlwind Boxer, Young Hero of Shaolin, Drunken Master Dollar Fist

For the most part, considering how many martial arts films were created in a relatively short span of time, there are not nearly as many franchises as one would expect. Particularly from the non-major studios of the time and area. Yet, The Prodigal Boxer did spawn at least one. It is often not released under the title The Prodigal Boxer II, but most frequently seen under its title Enter the Whirlwind Boxer or as the poster attached to this review states, Young Hero of Shaolin. If you watch it on Amazon Prime, you get both titles as it’s called Prodigal Boxer 2: Enter the Whirlwind Boxer. Surprisingly, The Prodigal Boxer II is a true sequel. Not just in title. Although the film disappointingly shovels off all of the characters from the first except for our hero Fong Sai-yuk, once again played by Mang Fei, it does reference the events of the first one and even features a flash back to the finale once our hero finds out what his current quest is going to be. It’s relatively fun that it, at least, attempted those connections even if the film does somewhat forget the romantic subplot and the fantastic mother/son relationship which made the original so strong. On it's own though, The Prodigal Boxer II does entertain enough with its gimmicks and strong action.

Interestingly, The Prodigal Boxer II replaces one formulaic martial arts narrative, the young hero learning to overcome the villain who wronged his family, with a completely different one where he must uncover a villainous group and fight through a series of gimmicky henchmen to face off against a corrupt big baddie. What makes this one a lot of fun the is titular “whirlwind boxer,” who is a third-party fighter who wants to challenge Fong Sai-yuk and ends up embroiled in the entire quest for justice and ends up becoming a fun frenemy for the hero. Their relationship is key to what does work in the film even when the film feels a bit too by-the-numbers as it goes.

The big issue that arises in The Prodigal Boxer II is the fact that the film lacks a bit of that flair and emotional center. There’s a lot of fun to be had, particularly through the character interactions and the gimmicky villains, but the emotional core of the film ultimately feels hollow. There’s a tad of that brotherhood element, but a semi-incoherent plot concerning the only two female characters and that missing familial portion of the first film just makes it a bit too formulaic. Part of the fun of the film is the diverse action sequences. Choreographed by the iconic Lau Kar-Wing, the film embraces its gimmicks for some dynamic action, far more than its predecessor. Evil shaolin monks, poison nets, and throwing axes make the film outlandish and entertaining. If only there was a bit more depth to the story and the main character, then it might be worth it.

The Prodigal Boxer II, aka Enter the Whirlwind Boxer, is still quite the entertaining jaunt. It’s not nearly as stylish or emotional effective as the first film, lacking that sense of character growth and chemistry between characters, but the film sure is a fun and enjoyable martial arts film for the fans. The use of the new fighter and his brotherly connection to Fong Sai-yuk is fantastic and the gimmicks are rapid fire, so keep that in mind as you dig into this one. A bit more layering and some stronger character development would have done it a world of good, but as is, The Prodigal Boxer II is a decent sequel.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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