Fist of Legend (1994)

Posted in Reviews by - March 31, 2014
Fist of Legend (1994)

Stunning remake of the 1972 Bruce Lee classic Fist of Fury, Jet Li takes on the coveted role of Chen Zhen with the right amount of aplomb and virtue who arrives back from his studies in Japan to the Ching Wu martial arts school in Shanghai to help bury his recently deceased master, Hou Yuen-chia (a real life folk hero, later personified by Jet Li in the 2006 biopic Fearless). Since his absence, the Japanese military have escalated their involvement in Shanghai – masterminded by the beefy General Fujita (Billy Chow) – and the Ching Wu students are putting up a brave resistance. Chen Zhen’s investigations stir up further tension, especially when he pays a visit to a Japanese dojo and beats up all the students. He summarily wins the hearts of the Ching Wu students, much to the dismay of Hou’s son Ting (Chin Siu-ho) who is supposed to be in charge, and inevitably this causes a jealous rivalry between the two fighters. Then their girlfriends stir things up even further. Ting falls for a prostitute at the Dizzy Star brothel, and Chen Zhen is expelled for dating a Japanese girl (Nakayama).

Unlike Lo Wei’s version, Fist of Legend is not a straightforward revenge film. Gordon Chan adds depth, character and ambiguity to a well-worn and familiar story. The performances are all superb. Billy Chow deserves a good hissing as a warmongering Japanese military imperialist, whilst Jet Li – and especially Chin Siu-ho – are excellent as local rebels facing a series of moral dilemmas. Yuen Woo-ping’s fight choreography is impeccable and nuanced: one of his best set-pieces being Jet Li’s sparring session with Japanese karate master Yasuaki Kurata, who plays the father of Chen Zhen’s amour in a thrilling, educational battle of wits.

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