Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Fist of Legend (1994)

January 21, 2013

Fist of Legend (1994) movie posterby Peter Nielsen

It’s time to return to another genre I love and grew up with… the martial arts genre.

During the 80s, we devoured these types of movies, and the TV and radio shop I mentioned in my last review (The Soldier) had a shit-load of these for rent. Many of them were bad and, more or less, had the same basic story-line, but we were young with easily impressed minds, so for the most part we were happy campers.

Man, we really dug those flicks!

And you know what? I actually still love them. Although, now as an adult, I look at them with a different frame of mind I guess. But having said that, I’m still a giggling little boy inside whenever I put one of these in the DVD-player. Fist of Legend (CLICK HERE for Blu-Ray* and CLICK HERE for DVD*) is actually a remake of the Bruce Lee movie Fist of Fury from 1972 and the reason I didn’t pick that one is because of it being a Bruce Lee movie and everybody knows about those, right?

Disciplining students... with pain!

Disciplining students… with pain!

But now, let’s go back to 1937, Kyoto, Japan, where Chen Zhen is attending class at the university. All of a sudden, Japanese karate students burst in with the intent of forcing Chen to leave because he’s Chinese. They don’t succeed very well because Chen very efficiently beats the crap out of them! This first fight-scene is almost painful to watch! Lots of bone-crunching sounds!

He basically punishes them for being disrespectful to him and his girlfriend-to-be, Mitsuko. As the students lay writhing in pain on the floor, their master arrives and apologizes for his students misbehaving.

His name is Funakoshi and he’s also Mitsuko’s uncle. He informs Chen of his master’s unfortunate death. So, Chen rushes home to China to pay his respects. Back at the school, he learns that master Huo was killed in a fight against the master of a rival school. A Japanese school! Fist of Legend touches a great deal upon racism between the Japanese and Chinese, but also on respect and acceptance between the two races.

NOW look what you've done... You made him angry!!

NOW look what you’ve done… You made him angry!!

Anyway, Chen is outraged and goes to exact his revenge. At the other school he beats the students and easily defeats the man who supposedly killed master Huo. Chen feels that since he so effortlessly defeated the man, his master should have been able to as well. He suspects foul play and asks that master Huo’s body be exhumed so the coroner can look for traces of poison.

He indeed finds poison, thus proving that the master was weakened prior to his fight with the Japanese fighter Akutagawa. But now it’s Akutagawa’s turn to be angered as he feels dishonored for having not been given a chance to prove himself in a fair fight.

He confronts the man behind it all, General Fujita, who promptly kills him and puts the blame on Chen Zhen so he can be sent to jail. When that fails, the general sends for a powerful master from Japan to fight Chen and get rid of him for good. The master turns out to be Funakoshi, who doesn’t really want to kill Chen, but they have a spectacular fight that ends in a draw.

Blindfolded fighting!

Blindfolded fighting!

I like this fight-scene, even more so than the climactic fight between Chen and General Fujita, at the end of the movie. Chen and Funakoshi are two excellent martial artists with a mutual respect for each other. Theywant this to be a fair fight. So much so, that at one point when Funakoshi is bothered by the wind blowing sand in his eyes, Chen suggests they finish the fight blindfolded. To make them equal!

All the fight and action scenes are choreographed exceptionally well by Yuen Woo-Ping. He also did the fight-choreography in Matrix. Apart from the amazing display of martial arts, Fist of Legend also has a strong story and good actors of whom I’ll only mention two (mainly because you probably haven’t heard of any of the others).

Chen squaring off against General Fujita

Chen squaring off against General Fujita

Playing the part of Funakoshi, we see Yasuaki Kurata, who is an accomplished martial artist with Dan ranks in Karate, Judo and Aikido. Along with acting, he also runs a stunt agency. And he teaches at a private college and being the Chief Advisor to the All Japan Nunchaku League. At one point in his career, he also met Bruce Lee.

Jet Li, who also produced Fist of Legend, plays Chen Zhen. Jet Li started training wushu at the age of eight. He is now a master of several styles of wushu and some of wushu’s main weapons. He’s won 15 gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese championships. What he shows on the screen is not fake; he really knows what he’s doing!

Li made his acting debut in 1982 in the movie Shaolin Temple and also starred in the Once Upon a Time in China series. His first Hollywood movie was against Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 4. He has since starred in Romeo Must Die, Kiss of the Dragon, The One, The Forbidden Kingdom (with Jackie Chan), and, most recently, in The Expendables where he teamed up with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and… Hell, do I really need to go on? Yeah, you know, the big boys!

Jet Li was also an appointed Good Will Ambassador by the International Red Cross. In 2007, he formed a non-profit foundation called “The One Foundation,” which supports disaster relief efforts around the world. He’s also been involved with recovery efforts in several disasters.

Li is a Tibetan Buddhist who thinks the greatest weapon is a smile, and the largest power is love. And supposedly he’s never had to use his martial arts skills in real life, nor does he wish to either. This is a man I would, at some point in time, really like to be able to sit down and discuss his views on everyday life with, but that’s for another time perhaps.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I like Fist of Legend and have watched it several times over the years.

There have been a couple different versions released of it and the one I own is the dubbed U.S. version. The downside to this is that the dubbing is not entirely correct. There have been alterations made that changed some of the story. On the plus-side though is that the footage looks stunning! I seem to remember watching the un-dubbed version on VHS at some point. Should have kept that around, damn it!

So, my friends… Have you seen Fist of Legend? Would you like to share your thoughts with me? If so, the comment section is all yours, and until next time… Take care!

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