"Five Fingers of Death"(original title: "King Boxer") is most emphatically NOT the "greatest martial arts movie of all time" or whatever it says on the box. It's a fairly typical early 70s Shaw Brothers film that became famous--or infamous--as the first kung-fu flick to be shown in American theaters. There had been many, many films like this before...American audiences just hadn't seen them. Also, some sources list prolific Shaw moviemaker Chang Cheh as the director of "Five Fingers". This is incorrect; it was directed by Chang Chang Ho.
So, if "Five Fingers" is not, after all, the yardstick by which all other martial arts films are measured, what IS it? It's an enjoyable, corny kung-fu programmer, very much a product of its time. The fights are choreographed in fine old Hong Kong style,
on a par with Bruce Lee's first two movies; they are not sped up and there are no computer effects(which you weren't expecting in the first place, since this was made in 1971...right?). The climactic battle is a little underwhelming for a Shaw film, but it's adequate. The story is your standard, Chinese-good-guys-versus-Japanese-bad-guys fare, but you have to remember that "Five Fingers" was one of the first movies to make use of this storyline--even before Bruce's "The Chinese Connection".
Above all, you should see it for two reasons: it's one of the few Shaw Brothers films readily available on DVD in the United States(even their average movies were miles ahead of standard Hong Kong fare in terms of martial arts choreography and production values) and it stars Lo Lieh, who passed away three years ago. As the hero, he's holding back just a little here(he was always better in villainous roles), but Lo was one of the true superstars of the genre. Buy "Five Fingers of Death" and get to know him.