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Fist Of Legend (1994)

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Starring:

-Jet Li
-Siu-hou Chin
-Billy Chow

Synopsis:

Jet Li plays Chen Zhen, a Chinese student of the Jingwu Mun school. While away studying in Japan, during World War II, Chen Zhen recieves news that his master has been killed in a match against a Japanese clan's leader. He goes home to investigate and finds out that his master's death involved foul play. He looks to avenge his death against those responsible in the Japanese military. Loose remake of Bruce Lee's "Fist of Fury" (aka "The Chinese Connection").

Review:

If you were to ask me, I would tell you that I consider Fist of Legend to be the ultimate martial arts movie. Yes, I do mean "of all time". Sure, I would rate Crouching Tiger higher as an overall movie, for its touching story, but as a martial arts movie you do not get any better than Fist of Legend. It is, in fact, the movie that really got me into martial arts films and HK films in general. Some Jackie movies warmed me up, and a viewing of Fist of Legend had me dying to see any HK movie I could after it. Its intriguing and thought provoking story, amazing acting performances, and of course unrivaled martial arts scenes make it an undisputable winner - a true classic.

Fist of Legend takes the "avenge my master" concept that has been done countless times and manages to turn it into a unique, though provoking, and ultimately memorable story. It adds elements of racial tension, loyalty to friends, and love in just the right amounts. A major subplot is actually much of a Romeo and Juliet story. Despite the tendency of many Chinese to hate all Japanese during these times, Chen Zhen has a Japanese girlfriend he loves. This ultimately forces him to question his feelings about the Japanese as well as face dilemma in choosing between her and loyalty to his clan. We also see a distinct difference in beliefs among the Japanese. Some of the military leaders believe in doing whatever is necessary and completely walking over the Chinese, while others believe that this is bad for everyone and have more of a sense of fairness and justice. Only the ending disappoints, as it is a major cop-out - but that still doesn't ruin the amazing film that leads up to it.

Not to go without mention are the amazing performances in the film. Not a single person stands out as acting poorly or over-the-top. Every character shows the right amount of restraint and fits the given role perfectly. Jet Li, as usual, is exceptional with his calm and wise demeanor, yet with just a touch of rage inside him that causes him some amount of confusion.

Before I go on, I must address the "remake" aspect of the film. It is, in fact, a remake of Bruce Lee's "Fist of Fury" (not to be confused with "Fists of Fury" aka "The Big Boss"). Some die hard Bruce Lee fans will, no doubt, take offense that this film does not follow the original so closely. Chen Zhen's character is toned down, being more of a pillar of respectability and wisdom than Bruce Lee's rage-filled Chen Zhen. Fist of Legend also shows a more favorable side to the Japanese than its inspiration. Some may argue that as a political cop-out, while I personally believe that it is a deeper route to take allowing for tension between the "good" Japanese and "bad" Japanese. Its likely that not all Japanese held the same beliefs about the China situation during these times. Either way, if you are looking for the Bruce Lee movie, watch the Bruce Lee movie. This movie is a new take on the story with a whole new feel, and if you can get past Jet Li not being Bruce Lee, you should be able to appreciate Fist of Legend for what it is.

Finally, we must look at what Fist of Legend is especially known for - its amazing fight scenes. While over-the-top wirework dominates 90's martial arts cinema, Fist of Legend takes a more grounded route with minimal wire use. The fights will have you in awe. There is, of course, the obligatory dojo scene where Jet Li fights off tons of Japanese clan members, in style and with composure. Later on, we will see more in-depth one on one fights. These are some of the best fight scenes you will ever see and the final fight, in particular, is long and involving. It is worthwhile to note that renowned choreographer, Yuen Woo Ping, is in charge here and shows that he can produce amazing fight scenes even without the high flying wire antics he is known for in the 90s.

What can I say? This film is truly the ultimate martial arts film. If I could only have one HK martial arts film, this would be it. The combination of a touching story and absolutely amazing fight scenes make this a classic. I believe that this movie is a great film for both martial arts film aficionados and newcomers alike. Truly inspiring work.

Director:

-Gordon Chan

Language/Cuts:

-Original Cantonese/Japanese language.

Grade:

A+

Pictures: