Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fist of Legend (1994)


Fist of Legend (Hong Kong, 1994) - Color, Director(s): Gordon Chan
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 103 min.

Z-rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars

This remake of Bruce Lee's original Fist of Fury has Jet Li playing the role of Chen Zhen, Jing Wu's brightest student. While away at school in Kyoto, Chen Zhen faces racism from fellow Japanese students who attempt to drive him out of the school. Zhen makes quick work of dispatching of the entire karate team before news reaches him regarding his Master's death. Visibly distraught by the news, Chen Zhen immediately returns to Shanghai to get to the bottom of his death. Upon returning to Jing Wu, the Master's son (played by Chin Siu-Ho, who also starred opposite of Li in the film Tai Chi Master) is seen accepting a challenge from the teacher of a rival Kung Fu school. Chen Zhen pays his respects before promptly going over to the dojo of the man who killed his Master. Zhen is confronted by 20-30 students who, upon his entering the dojo, threaten violence if he doesn't leave immediately. Demanding to see their Master, Akutagawa, Zhen defeats the entire room full of karate students before their sensei appears. Accepting a challenge to a duel, they both agree that there will be no revenge should one of them die. Chen Zhen easily defeats Akutagawa and comes to realize that his Master must not have been well during their fight or Akutagawa wouldn't have been able to defeat him. Chen Zhen digs up his Master's body and has a doctor perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, which tested positive for poison. As news of the autopsy results spread through the city, Akutagawa confronts an army General named Fujita (played by Billy Chow) and promptly killed for his line of questioning. They try to frame Chen Zhen for the murder of Akutagawa but without a reliable testimony, their charges hold no weight. Furthermore, a girl name Mitsuko, Chen Zhen's love interest from Japan, provides a contradictory testimony and provides an alibi for the whereabouts of Chen Zhen on the night in question. The judge throws the case out and Chen Zhen is set free but is now looked down on for having relations with a Japanese woman. Returning to Jing Wu, Mitsuko is not welcome and is asked to leave. An internal power struggle develops between Chen Zhen and Ting-An culminating in a showdown for leadership of Jing Wu. Despite being victorious, Chen Zhen leaves the school to be with Mitsuko. After trying to make a life together, they are paid a visit by Mitsuko's uncle who has a friendly match with Chen Zhen. Ting-Ah also pays a visit and informs Zhen that he is set to face Fujita in a showdown the next day and Zhen agrees to accompany him. Will the combined efforts of Jing Wu's top students be enough to overcome the menace that is the Japanese General, Fujita?

Nudity: None.

Gore: None.

Awesome: to the MAX!!! This is often touted as Jet Li's best movie and I can see why. Fantastic choreography, extremely fast-paced action, and very good remake of a martial arts classic. My only complaints are that in some scenes, you can tell that they fast-forwarded the action and that some of the moves pulled off in the film defy the laws of physics. I will address these issues separately:

Fast-forwarding the action: I can understand that Bruce Lee was extremely fast and they probably wanted to recreate the sense of quickness in the fight scenes. The problem with this is, Jet Li is already pretty quick and I feel like fast-forwarding some of his scenes make you question whether the other scenes are his real speed. I know Jet Li is fast enough to make it look good without having to fast-forward any of his scenes. Also, it looks just plain silly when they fast-forward other people's fight scenes because they're obviously NOT that quick. Overall, I feel like any fast-forwarding was detrimental to the overall feel of the movie.

Impossible moves: Bruce Lee generally emphasized realism in his movies and tried to teach lessons through his films. I think the fact that there were moves that are impossible to pull off takes away from the credibility of this film. Don't get me wrong, I am a BIG time fan of wire-fu movies. I just feel like the scenes that involved said moves pull you back out of the film after you've been immersed in it. Furthermore, the film then requires a greater suspension of disbelief than the original ever did.

With that being said, this is NOT the movie to miss. If you're a fan of the original and would like to watch a serious and well remade version of the film, check this out. If you're a fan of Jet Li, this is definitely one for the shelf. In fact, on my shelf, this movie sandwiches The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan's Legend of the Drunken Master on the other side of it. I like to think of it as watching them when they're in their prime... and then you can see them together for the first time when they're old and established stars.

2 comments:

  1. Jet li is pretty cool but he is short

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  2. LOL, I'm not sure where that came from... but yeah, the guy is a little short.

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