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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ma Su Chen
Ma Su Chen
Crash Cinema // Unrated // September 5, 2006
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted September 15, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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As an old school kung fu flick, "Ma Su Chen" promises a lot but offers too little. The appearance of Johnny Wang Yu, the screen legend from "The One-Armed Swordsman" and "Master of the Flying Guillotine" (among many others), should be enough to rake in viewers who, if not familiar with the name, are at least familiar with his filmography. But aside from a thrilling final battle and a few serviceable fight sequences, there's just not much here to keep fans of the genre interested.

"Ma Su Chen" (aka "Rebel Boxer") is a relatively thin actioner, plowing through its notably brief (75 minutes!) running time but without delivering enough of the good stuff. The film opens promisingly enough, with an army of baddies attacking Ma Yuen Chen (Wang) in the streets, leaving him with four axes buried deep into his torso - which apparently is not enough to stop him. After all, he's the Boxer from Shantung! While he recovers from ax wounds as well as blindness (don't ask), a gang of generic baddies tracks down his sister, Ma Su Chen (Nancy Yen) in an attempt to find him. But look out, generic baddies, she can kick ass, too!

The whole thing is, not surprisingly, very sloppy, with a draggy story that does little to invite you to follow along. Internet information on this title is pretty much nonexistent, but it seems this is an unofficial sequel to "The Boxer From Shantung" (one of several unofficial sequels to that film, in fact), which may explain why the story jumps around so much, as it's probably assuming knowledge of the backstory on the part of the viewer. What's to make of the few scenes in the film that look like flashbacks, clips from some other movie? Those make up two of the movie's most interesting scenes, but should this movie get credit for them? If any hardcore kung fu freaks out there know more about this title, please feel free to speak up.

The key question, however, is: how's the fightin'? Well, there are a couple of very solid fight sequences, making up for all those boring bits. Most notable is a lengthy finale involving twirling double-ended torches and an army of hundreds, impressively choreographed and sure to please fans. Wang's talents are displayed well, as are Yen's, who hands in a good share of fun action as well. Still, it's just not memorable enough to make it anything other than the generic genre filler that it is. This is low grade, late night fare, nothing else.

The DVD

Crash Media has released "Ma Su Chen" under their Venom Mob banner, as part of the "Old Skool Killaz" bargain series. (Yeah, that name makes me cringe, too.) Surprisingly, the print here seems to be uncut, as we get original Chinese credits instead of the usual American grindhouse redux that tosses in new music and incoherent editing. (OK, so the editing here's still incoherent, but this time, it's not the importer's fault.)

Video

The good news: it's widescreen. The bad news: that's the only good news. This is a lousy transfer of an ugly print - aliasing and artifacting do nothing at all to help this scratched, water damaged film print. Colors are dingy and muddy, with brightness sometimes varying within a single shot. As for the widescreen (or "Crash Scope," as the box calls it), it's a non-anamorphic presentation; curiously, the credits are in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio while the rest of the film is in 2.35:1. Nutty.

Audio

Just a cheap English dub, in glorious mono. Just as muddy and blah as the video. It's an interesting dub, though: one nightclub scene retains the original soundtrack, which features a singer entertaining the crowd. It's a noticeable shift, as this sequence is even worse that the English dub, crackle-heavy and painful. And don't even bother asking about subtitles or closed captions.

Extras

You kiddin'?

Final Thoughts

If you've read this far, chances are you've seen enough kung fu flicks to not be too concerned about crappy video and laughable audio. While the dirt cheap price might make this attractive to collectors of all thing old school (or "old skool," as it were), I'll just say Rent It. The few decent fights will make for some quickie entertainment, but there's just nothing here worth repeat viewings. (And if you're not a kung fu freak but looking to become one, there's nothing here to be worth your while at all. For you, I say Skip It.)
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