Fantastic Fest 2010: Legend of the Fist review
If the Chinese army had the skills that Donnie Yen shows at kicking ass as a lowly workman for the English in WW2, they would have ruled the world by now. Fortunately for us they don't seem to possess the superhuman abilities that he has in this film.
Taking place after the events in portrayed originally in "Fist of Fury", "Fist of Legend" and the TV series this film is based on we follow the character of Chen Zhen after coming home from the war torn battle fields of Europe to a city that has been sectioned down to territories ruled over by the allies and the Japanese. Posing as a suave playboy he fronts a revolutionary group that is determent to push back the Japanese army and get authority back in to the hands of the Chinese people. But things are not that simple because local gangsters see no reason to get rid of the foreigners because they make money of them and Chen Zhen falls for the beautiful lounge singer played by Qi Shu who might not be all who she seems. Donning a Kato-esque costume Yen pulls a Dark Knight on the asses of the evil Japanese army but at the same time risks the life of his comrades in the resistance movement.
What's different from this re-telling of the Chen Zhen saga is that this is no longer the gritty semi-realistic story of a hero defending the honor of his people. This is glossy, slick looking, hyper realistic super hero fantasy, with hot women, Donnie Yen's firm butt and fast and furious action that some people have called racist because of the depiction of the Japanese in the film. In every telling of this story they have been portrayed as heartless bastards with no redeeming values what so ever and it isn't very different in this one as well. This isn't any more racist than the older films but I think in today's PC environment people are more sensitive about these things. It's patriotic as hell and every foreigner comes off as either evil or as a doofus, a horrible acted caucasian police chief has to be seen to be believed.
The film is pretty entertaining if you are looking for a slick but simple action movie with terrific action sequences. Donnie Yen shows again that he is the man when dropping bodies. It's hard to imagine that the dude is pushing fifty and is still one of the fastest guys around. The predictable over the top melodrama is in place as well and it's all fine and dandy, something you'd come to expect in a film like this.
This is a departure from the gritty reality of Andrew Lau's previous Infernal Affairs films and will probably not be on the top of anyone's list at the end of the year. But a decent time waster.