Friday, January 6, 2017

Film Review: Fists of Legend (2013)

Fists of Legend (Review)
South Korea/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...may not bring a lot of new elements to the genre, but it is very well made and it is very entertaining."

Three friends, past their prime and living lives of regret, reunite in the ring for a show about 'legendary' fighters...

Fists of Legend is a by-the-books sports drama with some much appreciated depth. The film follows three high school friends: Im Deok-kyu (Hwang Jung-min), a boxer with Olympic dreams, Lee Sang-hoon (Yoo Jun-sang) the right-hand man of an arrogant boss, and Shin Jae-sook (Yoon Je-moon), a thug thriving to be something bigger. The plot hops between past and present, showing us their conflicts in high school and where they ended up. It can be a little convoluted at times, but it generally works. It all leads up to a large MMA tournament where all of the friends participate – and therefore fight – for $200,000. I've read a few critics didn't like the ending of this film. Personally, I thought the climax was great and the ending was refreshing.

Fists of Legends may not bring a lot of new elements to the genre, but it is very well made and it is very entertaining. The characters are a bit clich̩, cycling between the unbelievably cool and oddly clumsy. Still, the characters have depth. This depth works when it focuses on themes such as bullying, which is present in both past and present. There is also plenty of action Рfrom amateur brawls in the streets to well-choreographed grappling in the ring. Sprinkle some well-time humor on top of that and you have yourself a very engaging and entertaining film. It is very long, though, and it often drags its feet. It could have shed a bit of fat, but it doesn't tarnish the entire film.

The acting was good. Hwang Jung-min is charming and emotionally effective. You can't help but like the guy. Yoo Jung-sang and Yoon Je-moon share less of the screen time, but they're both charming as well. There is some over-acting here and there, but I figured it fit some of the cliches of the genre. The film is shot well and the music was good, too. The film was written by Jang Min-seok and directed by Kang Woo-suk. The plot occasionally felt convoluted and bloated, but the depth of the characters was refreshing and the story was engaging. Kang knows how to craft great brawls and his tighter MMA scenes fare well, too.

Overall, Fists of Legend is a great movie. It is a by-the-books sports drama that manages to work thanks to its compelling themes, interesting and charismatic characters, solid fight scenes, and strong climax/ending. If you have two hours and a half to spare, this is a great Korean sports flick.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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