Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fist of Legend

Jing Wu Yingxiong; martial arts film, Hong Kong / China, 1994; D: Gordon Chan, S: Jet Li, Chin Siu-ho, Yasuaki Kurata, Shinobu Nakayama

World War II. Parts of China are being annexed by Tokyo because it wants to create Greater Japan. Chinese martial arts student Chen Zhen leaves Japan in order to return to mainland China to continue studying in a Chinese martial arts school, Jingwu, and discovers that his master was poisoned by someone. Chen suspects a rivalling Japanese martial arts school that cooperates with general Fujita in order to close down and erase all Chinese martial arts teachings. However, Chen is in love with Mitsuko, a Japanese girl, and is disappointed that his own people are expelling him because of his relationship. In a giant fist battle, Chen manages to beat Fujita. He also kills Fujita in order to stop him from killing him. A Japanese ambassador manages to fake Chen's death to appease the Japanese army, while Chen escapes.

After "Once Upon a Time in China" film trilogy, "Fist of Legend" definitely consolidated Jet Li as a new star of martial arts on the film stage: his moves, speed and kicks are done with a lot of awe, even when they are slightly exaggerated and stray into "showing off", such as in the scene where the hero Chen is doing push-ups with one hand or breaking a stone with his hand. A loose remake of "Fist of Fury", director Gordon Chan uses the history backdrop as means of headlining the conflict between the Chinese and Japanese martial arts schools, with a few great fight sequences that are worthy of the original (in one scene, Chen stops his fist right in front of a rival's face), yet the story is still slightly flat and chaotic, where all the supporting characters are poorly developed - except maybe for Chen's love, Japanese girl Mitsuko, who loves him despite their different nationalities, which redeems her nation, and which somewhat alleviates some criticism that the Japanese side is presented exclusively negative. Unlike J. Chan, whose battles are choreographed as meticulous as a good ballet, and are thus highly stylistic and clean, Li's battles are more 'down-to-earth', unglamourous and gritty, with several brutal moments, equipped with blood and broken legs. "Fist of Legend" does not ever try overreach its simplistic ambition, and thus works fine as an exciting martial arts film with very good battles.


No comments: