Apr 062012

Catman in Boxer’s Blow is a 1993 Z list action film by Hong Kong based director Godfrey Ho. Throughout his career, Ho created over a hundred films, the bulk of which were released between 1980 and 1990. His films, including the Catman series, have gained cult status by being viewed as some of the most unintentionally funny films ever made.

Also known also as U.S. Catman 2, the description of the film states that it is the story of Sam, a top “U.S. Agent,” who is scratched by a radioactive cat and gains superhuman abilities. His powers, including laser vision and chain-splitting strength, allow him to fight the evil Reverend Cheever, a priest driven mad, who plots to destroy the world using nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, none of context or back story is mentioned in the movie.

The plot of the actual film instead focuses on Bobby, a man chosen to go undercover in the Holy Cheever gang to make money for a group of arms dealers? Somehow? Catman doesn’t try to bore you with details, and there’s no point asking why a man is suddenly handed a gun and a task, or who most of the characters are, or why they are fighting each other. Catman only wants you to enjoy the fighting.

And there is plenty of fighting.

From the moment Bobby joins the Cheever gang, men are brutally beating each other, shooting at each other, and falling into things, like garbage cans that appear out of nowhere. Being a member of a ruthless, arms dealing, kung fu gang takes its toll on its members. In this scene, one member consumes a whole handful of worms for some reason. Due to intimidation? Some truth or dare game happening off screen?

Poor Bobby vomits as he is forced to watch this, while he is repeatedly beaten on the head. And this becomes perhaps the most relatable scene in the film as we know how Bobby feels. Know all too well.

The character Catman does make a brief appearance in the film. In fact, if we were to cut the film down to only the Catman scenes, the running time might be about eleven minutes long. Though his screen time is meager, Catman makes colourful use of it. Catman and his friend Gus (whose favorite things in life are spaghetti, meatballs, and open-hand slapping women in the face) spend a lot of time leaning on things, swearing, and not dying after being shot thirty times. Otherwise they are but supporting characters in a movie about bar brawls.

Catman feels like two stories clumsily patched together, as though the producer felt the film would be only be marketable to their desired audience if at least some of the characters were American. In the English dub version of the film, the Americans all speak English, but are dubbed over anyway. The person in charge of the dubbing did not bother to line up the lip movement with the dialogue, nor did they bother using the same script most of the time. Perhaps a postmodern reflection on translation and transnational cinema? Maybe. Comical? Certainly.

Catman is a wholly confusing, disturbing, and wonderful film. From its endlessly quotable one-liners (“no great shakes, I’ll take care of him”), to its terrible lighting, from the painful dubbing to the impossibly complicated plot, Catman is an hour and a half of pure, tragic fun.

–M. MacKay

Megan MacKay is a journalist, writer, and stand up comedian living in New Brunswick. She is not a strong swimmer.

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