Spiritual Boxer (HK 1976)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/20/01
Director: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Cast: Yung Wang Yu, cameos by Chen Kwan Tai, Ti Lung, Liu Chia Liang

Liu Chia Liang's directorial debut is a tiresome and meandering kung fu adventure about a mischievous young man (Yung Wang Yu) who deceives people by pretending to be possessed by ancient Chinese demi-gods (like the legendary Monkey King). His pranks get him in and out of trouble, but he's generally a good kid and has a strong sense of justice. He finally catches the attention of the town villain, who eventually exposes him as a fraud and a huge kung fu battle goes down. Without Wang Yu's charming and graceful style and Liu Chia Liang's awesome martial arts choreography, this film would be nearly intolerable. The kung fu is very good and Wang Yu exhibits a bunch of different forms, including all of the Shaolin animal forms. The movie starts off on a very bizarre note, as we see two "real" spiritual boxers (Chen Kwan Tai and Ti Lung) testing their skills against blades and ultimately bullets, but after the credits finish we never see them again. This is a theme that Liang revisits in great detail in his epic "Legendary Weapons Of Kung Fu" (1982). Unless you're a Liu Chia Liang fan, you're probably better off skipping this one.