Sunday, May 24, 2015

Film Review: Fist of Legend (1994)

Fist of Legend (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

" of the best martial arts films ever made..."

Upon learning of his master's death, Chen Zhen (Jet Li) returns to China from Japan to avenge his master...

Fist of Legend follows Chen Zhen as he returns to Japan-occupied China. He returns to his Jingwu School, then pays a visit to those seemingly responsible for his master's death — a rival Japanese school. After easily beating them, Zhen rationalizes that his master must have been poisoned — a theory that is proven after Zhen surgically removes his master's liver. After the revelation, the conflict between the Chinese and Japanese continues to escalate. Meanwhile, there is a conflict within the Jingwu School and a conflict concerning love. The film leads to the same ol' showdown against an ultra-powerful Japanese adversary. Cliché? Yes. Epic? You're damn right. The ending is also great.

Fist of Legend is a loose remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury. Yet, both films differ radically. The base of the story is fairly familiar, but the side plots, such as the forbidden romance, are much more thorough. The film is missing Bruce Lee's signature quirk and humor, although it does have a much-appreciated punch of comedy. Anyway, Fist of Legend stands tall as a ferocious martial-arts action film. The characters and their conflicts are handled very well; in fact, much better than many films in the genre. The action is absolutely vicious without being gratuitous. Jet Li's speed and power are captured excellently through every fight scene — and there are plenty. There are a few moments where the film feels segmented and out there, though, like the scene where Chen Zhen expertly removes his master's liver and a conclusive test is given right on the spot — that seemed a little off, to say the least. Despite those flaws, the narrative is strong and engaging.

Jet Li is also great as the leading man. The role may not be very demanding, but Jet Li has action star charisma and presence. The film looks wonderful, the cinematography stands the test of time to immerse us into this beautiful world. The music is also great. The action sequences are splendid thanks to choreographer Yuen Woo-ping. Writer and director Gordon Chan takes a classic martial arts film and makes it his own. The film is paced and balanced well to create a consistent formula of ferocious action and tender storytelling. Although this film takes the Japanese super villain route by the end, it does offer multiple perspectives to create something more realistic and less biased. (i.e. It doesn't paint all Japanese at the time as sinister and evil.)

Overall, Fist of Legend is a classic martial arts action movie. There are some minor flaws in the plot, but it is ultimately one of the best martial arts films ever made — and I don't believe I'm exaggerating. It's filled to the brim with ferocious action and it features a strong and thoughtful narrative. It is very different from its source material — from its action and humor to many of the major plot points. The action, in particular, will cater more to fans of fast and brutal martial arts films, such as Ip Man and The Raid. Although Bruce Lee will always have a warm place in my heart, Jet Li's Fist of Legend excels beyond its predecessor.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and some blood.

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