Fantastic Fest 2010: Legend of the Fist review

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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.

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Wai-Keung LauGordon ChanChi-Sing CheungKoon-nam LuiFrankie TamDonnie YenQi ShuAnthony Chau-Sang WongBo HuangActionDramaHistory

More about Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

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hiroaki.jOctober 5, 2010 10:05 AM

I think some people's problem with it isn't that it's any more racist than movies made in the 70's. It's that Fist of Legend was made 16 years ago and has a dramatically more nuanced view of the Japanese while preserving bad to the core mustache twirling villainy.

Personally, outside of "Hero" I've been finding this trend of nationalism to be fairly grating.

"Ip Man" felt like it was cribbing from "Fearless" but missing all the value of that films philosophical conclusion.

andrewzOctober 5, 2010 10:41 AM

According to Donnie was born July 27, 1963 which, if accurate, would definitely not put him "well into his fifties".

There's also two instances of the word "of" which I think is supposed to be "off" in the second and third paragraphs.

I also don't see this time as being anymore PC than when Li's "Fist of Legend" was released 16 years ago. I think the rise of Chinese films with a strong nationalist bent is inevitable given the contemporary Chinese environment.

I'm sure financial considerations also play into the decision to portray some ethnic group as evil or just incompetent. The international market can only handle so much Chinese product, but the mainland market is still quite attractive.

Let's not forget the non-acting Caucasian has long been a feature of movies made in Hong Kong.

SwarezOctober 5, 2010 11:06 AM

You are right about his age, I meant to say that he was pushing fifty.

The caucasian actor in question has been, according to IMDB, acting for years and studied it as well. Guess he didn't pay attention in class.

andrewzOctober 5, 2010 5:57 PM

I didn't mean anything personal and my reply is pretty pedantic. I like the site but little mistakes can do a lot of damage to your credibility. I do some minor editing and so I am super picky.

You got me on not being clear. I sometimes wonder if it is required to have the clueless, bad-acting white guy in Hong Kong films. If he's supposed to be English; it is a plus. Is it as bad as Chinese in black face for some Yuen Woo Ping flick? Who can say?

idiotproof67October 5, 2010 9:19 PM

Decent time waster? C'mon. Get real.
I saw this at the cinema a few weeks back & only becasue Donnie Yen was in it. I wish i had read the online reviews.
What a snoozefest. Apart from the anti-Japanese diatribes which occured frequently & quite aggresively throughout the film (yes, I get the point & know some history as most likley did the 99% Chinese audience) the film itself was a boring disaster & not engaging in the slightest.
The worst aspect was the Hollywood fightography. It's Donnie Yen & yet you can't even see his fighting skills because of the tight photography & rapid fire editing. What a waste.
The beginning sequence in WW1 era France showed promise, but then it all evaporated into monotony & wasted moments.
Donnie had one lame fight at the finale, the rest was him just beating the shit out of the Japanese with none of them fighting back. What tha?
Overall a terriblly unengaing film with poorly shot fight sequences. Now Flashpoint. That's a great Donnie Yen film, this was not.

balistik94October 6, 2010 6:49 AM

I don't know know why donnie keep making movies like this. It doesn't add anything new to the genre and it's been done to death. If the fight scenes were at least creative I would understand but they're not and the camera work is sub-par. I think he only did this one for the paycheck.

"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"

Actually in Fist Of Legend Chen Zhen had a japanese girlfriend and he wanted to marry her. Her father is also a positive character. A lot of chinese movies are more nationalistic today which is mind boggling.

xinoOctober 6, 2010 11:21 AM


no I just think that Chinese people should stop making martial arts movies about them being terrorised by other nations!
It's getting old and annoying and making it seem like China is a good country and always being bullied by others.

If you look at all recent chinese martial arts movie, you'd see it's always about other nations- japanese/westerns terrorising them or bullying them.

Back in the days with kung fu movies in black n white, it never used to have plots about nations belittling China.
I love those classic kung fu movies and still do!

kungfueurotrashOctober 8, 2010 2:23 PM

Nothing, nothing will ever come close to Shaw Bros...
The Chinese are the like the Jews of Asian Cinema, oops :o
I'm not complaining it makes for good quality entertainment and don't find it racist at all.

DooKDecember 8, 2010 4:59 PM

"If the fight scenes were at least creative I would understand but they're not and the camera work is sub-par."

That is beyond me. I saw creativity in every scene, more and less. Particularly the intro scene and the fight in the office. It's the editing that is the problem mostly.