Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fist of Legend

I have only seen one Bruce Lee's movie, which is Fist of Fury and for all I know, Fist of Legend is a remake of Chinese Connection. I watched Fist of Legend with the assumption (and with good reason) that it's better than its Bruce Lee's counterpart. However, if you just take out the fight scenes here's the result you get: while this film tries to have a decent script, the cast's performance makes it look really dull at times. If you're willing to forget such a detail, you'll be in for quite an entertainment, speaking about the fight scenes.

In the 1930s, Chen Zhen (Jet Li), a Chinese kung-fu expert, studies engineering in Kyoto. At the same moment, the Japanese army has already taken Shanghai. When he learns that his master died (so it seems) in a duel with a Japanese master, Chen Zhen decides to go back to China even if it means leaving behind for a while Mitsuko (Shinobu Nakayama), his lover and classmate. Afterwards, when he learns that his master got poisoned in reality, Chen Zhen decides to get revenge by fighting the Japanese who are behind this.

I remember that I liked this film a lot because of its fight scene when I was in Grade 8. However, I have to admit that as you get old, you just see a film differently. First of all, in comparison with the Bruce Lee version, I'm glad that this film doesn't have any racist bias toward the Japanese protagonists. Indeed, they are given a chance to express their thoughts. However, any praise for the film stops there.

As a matter of fact, although the film is entertaining because of its fight scenes, I had the feeling that I was either watching: 1) a bad soap opera; 2) a bad comic book adapted to the big screen; or 3) a parody of a the first John Wayne films (shot in another historical period). In addition to the cold performance, most characters give you the feeling that they came out of a mould. For instance, while Jet Li (Hero) plays a fearless hero who never has any problem, Shinobu Nakayama plays nothing but a love object that you barely care for. Besides, let's also mention that the Japanese general played by Billy Chow (High Risk) seemed to be programmed to only express one feeling, that is anger.

Unless you forgive the actors' lack of manoeuvre in their portrayal of their respective character, you'll probably say to yourself that Fist of Legend is, at best, a movie about peace and respect of people. This message of respect can be seen through Chen Zhen's love for Mitsuko and her wish that there will not be a war between Japan and China. Hence, the denunciation in the film of some Chinese characters' black and white vision about Japanese people (ex: if a Chinese person loves a Japanese, then that person is a traitor). However, don't expect much dramatic depth because of the dialogues that don't allow us to go that much into the character's political opinions (especially Mitsuko's) and enjoy the fight scenes.

Rating: 2.5/5

Fist of Legend
Origin:Hong Kong (1994)
Length:103 minutes
Genre:Action drama
Screenplay:Gordon Chan, Lan Kay Toa, Kei To Lam and Yip Kwong-Kim
Director:Gordon Chan
Starring:Jet Li, Shinobu Nakayama, Chin Siu-Ho, Billy Chow and Yasuaki Kurata

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