The Boxing King (2002)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-12-03
Summary: Couldn't have been a contender
“The Boxing King” is a story of intertwined relationships. The characters are held together by ties of family, friendship, love and business all of which centers on the hard world of professional boxing.

Alex Wong is a construction worker who runs afoul of a couple of corrupt foremen on a building site. He is attacked by a mob of tool wielding construction workers who corner him but find that he is more than a match for them. Illiterate, unemployed and now homeless he is taken in by Wong Fei whose uncle Alex Wong helped when he was trapped under a collapsing scaffold. Wong Fei is a former boxer with a permanent limp from a boxing injury who now, as is often the case, hangs around boxing gyms and bouts trying to stay a part of the sport by doing menial work.

Wong Fei brings Alex Wong home—which seems to be in a combination restaurant/rooming house run by his sister Jing Yin. Alex is handsome, honorable and not too bright while Jing is beautiful, respectable and smart. Not surprisingly they fall in love.

Iron Hung is a wealthy retired boxer who is in the early stages of dementia pugilistica. He has lucid periods punctuated by times of complete forgetfulness but is still in superb shape and remembers everything he ever learned in the ring. His sister, Hung Ying, is a kung fu champion who does forms exhibitions for appreciative but dwindling audiences.

After several matches Alex Wong is becoming well known among the fans of club fights, knocking out his opponents in the early rounds. Evil boxing manager Huo arranges a fight between Alex and Ying—he doesn’t know he will be fighting a woman until he enters the ring. This leads to a very well staged fight which makes full use of Cynthia Khan’s athleticism, especially her kicking ability. The focus of the fight is on her since Alex will only defend himself—he won’t strike a woman. The focus of the scene is on Alex since his chivalrous refusal leads to his first loss, an outcome that manager Huo had bet on getting excellent odds.

Ying is convinced to help train Alex but only after Alex is convinced not to give up boxing—grueling training scenes and scenes of self-doubt and fear seem to be staples of boxing movies everywhere—and finally Iron Hung himself becomes a mentor and trainer to Alex.

The rest of the movie moves briskly along its predictable path culminating in two fights with Tiger Lei, the scarred and scary looking Korean champion. He wins one and loses one in the expected order.

The very last scene of the movie is a shocker which I won’t describe since it would be a major spoiler. It is an astonishingly callous and very effective way to end the movie.

Yu Rong-Guang is terrific as the noble former champion whose mind and memory are slowly slipping away and Sze Hung-Bor shines as the slightly sleazy but ultimately moral hanger-on. Both are playing characters with obvious flaws that they struggle to overcome which gives them the chance to create solid roles. The young actress who plays Jing Yin has a one note part and doesn’t have the acting skills to make anything of it. Her range is from mildly petulant to somewhat pleased. She shows the former by furrowing her forehead and the later by widening her eyes. Fan Siu-Wong has a different problem as Alex Wong. While Alex seems to be the center of the movie, whenever he isn’t in the ring he is just tagging along with someone else or waiting for something to happen so he can react to it. The actor playing Korean champion Tiger Lei was perfectly cast as a heavy.

I got this movie because it features Cynthia Khan. She is gorgeous and very fit, tough when she needs to be, softer at other times. She dominates the screen during the training scenes with Alex and really lights things up when shown in close-up or medium shots while performing the kung fu forms (the long shots from the point of view of the audience were obviously done in an empty auditorium and the performer could barely be seen).

Not a bad movie for its sub-genre but based on the casting and credits one thought that Cynthia Khan would have had much more screen time.
Reviewer Score: 5