Sitges 2010: LEGEND OF THE FIST Review

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Sitges 2010: LEGEND OF THE FIST Review
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[Our thanks to Guillem Rosset for the following review.]

When a movie has behind it such big names as Andrew Lau, Gordon Chan and Donnie Yen behind it, you'd probably start to feel a little bit curious about it. If such movie happens to be a follow up of a television series which was based on a character made famous by Bruce Lee on 1972's Fist of Legend, it'd surely catch your attention. Well, if you're into that kind of cinema anyway.

So here comes Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, the latest blockbuster from superstar director Andrew Lau and Donnie Yen reprising his role as Chen Zhen, the kung fu master who tirelessly fights against the Japanese occupation in Shanghai during the 30's. The film opens with a group of Chinese laborers who helped the French soldiers against the German troopers during the First World War. And let me tell you: this opening sequence is one of the best action scenes that I've seen in a very long time. Brilliantly choreographied and executed, Chen Zhen takes down a whole squad of German soldiers armed only with a couple of knives as he progresses across the destroyed buildings. This scene is wild Hong Kong action cinema as its best. And it's a shame because the movie only goes downward from here, though never becoming a total failure.

We move forward in time to Shanghai just before the Second Sino-Japanese war. Chinese people are becoming restless, as Japanese, British and American governments care only for getting its slice of the profit in Shanghai. Chen Zhen, under a false identity, partners with a successful local businessman Master Liu (Anthony Wong) to run a prominent nightclub frequented by foreign dignitaries. There he'll also meet Kiki (Shu Qi), one of the club's hostess and his soon to be romantic interest.

As the story develops and adds romantic and intrigue elements, the action element goes down a couple of notches. The martial arts sequences keep a very good level throughout the film (though they never reach the same height as the opening one), but they become more far apart and feel more like isolated moments than part of the story. Nonetheless, the final showdown between Chen Zhen and a whole Japanese martial arts dojo is well worth watching. The problem is that non fight scenes don't quite work together, and it's only thanks to the tremendous charisma of the actors that the script works.

There's no denying that Legend of the Fist has all the right ingredients to be the big blockbuster that aspires to be. It's a shame that not all the elements fit well together, an the film suffers as a whole. But if you're in for a couple of hours of entertainment where you can turn your brain off for a while and just enjoy, this is a sure bet.

Review by Guillem Rosset

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Director(s)
  • Wai-Keung Lau
Writer(s)
  • Gordon Chan (screenplay)
  • Chi-Sing Cheung
  • Koon-nam Lui
  • Frankie Tam
Cast
  • Donnie Yen
  • Qi Shu
  • Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
  • Bo Huang
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Wai-Keung LauGordon ChanChi-Sing CheungKoon-nam LuiFrankie TamDonnie YenQi ShuAnthony Chau-Sang WongBo HuangActionDramaHistory

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