In this adaptation of the popular Fong Sai Yuk folk tale, Meng Fei plays the familiar hero with support from his master martial artist mother (Hung Pai). When a fight inadvertently results in the death of a student, two evil brothers and martial arts masters strike up a plan for revenge on the Fong family. When events are taken to the extreme, Fong Sai Yuk must train to defeat the two criminal fighters and their deadly two pronged attack technique.
My first exposure to the Fong Sai Yuk character years ago, The Prodigal Boxer I have something of a soft spot for the film. While it does spin a generic kung fu yarn, it does offer some better than average sets and training sequences and a very good performance by Meng Fei in what has defined my view of the oft portrayed character. Showing good growth and decent acting with his mother and a not so forced love interest (Li Lan Lan), it’s a very natural performance and I always wondered why Meng Fei was never bigger than he was.
Always a favorite, Kurata offers some solid kicking techniques and certainly overshadows his brother as the main villain. He’s a crafty villain and seems to really enjoy his devious endeavors. Fight scenes are generally solid, though the fights overall tend to be underwhelming. There is nothing wrong with the techniques just that the choreography lacks any real inventiveness. Like many kung fu films of this era, there are a number of exaggerated deaths and overly emoted reactions. It’s all very nostalgic and a part of the experience.
In the end, The Prodigal Boxer has more to offer through its portrayal of the Fong character than the martial arts on display. Easily accessible and a nostalgic film for me, The Prodigal Boxer is a generally run of the mill revenge film that has some better than average acting and design. While there have been some much more visible portrayals of the Fong Sai Yuk story, most notably Jet Li and Donnie Yen, Meng Fei delivers a fine performance despite the lack of comparable martial ability.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Fong Sai Yuk I &II, Magnificent Butcher, Mystery of Chess Boxing