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The Film
Fist Of Legend

Its Origin
Hong Kong

Running Time
106 mins

Genre(s)
Martial Arts

Director(s)
Gordon Chan

Stars
Jet Li
Chin Siu Ho
Billy Chow

DVD Distributor
Ritek

DVD Origin
China

Region Code
All

DVD Format
NTSC

Audio Tracks
Mandarin Stero (?)

Subtitles
Chinese, English

Screen Format
Letterboxed

Special Info
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Fist Of Legend


Film Review

Among the many highly acclaimed Hong Kong martial arts films that Jet Li has starred in, Fist Of Legend probably ranks near the top. This ranking is maybe not for his acting and maybe not for the story, but probably for it having the best fight choreography in almost any of his films to date. What makes the choreography so good? Well in this film's case, it is all realistic and done almost completely without the use of wires.

The story is quite simple to say the least. Jet Li is Chen Zhen, a student of a martial arts master who is defeated in a match by a Japanese fighter under mysterious circumstances. He learns of his master's death while studying in Japan, and immediately heads home to find out the truth. He discovers that his master's opponent was no match for his master, which could only mean one thing, foul play. The hostility between the Chinese and Japanese increase, and soon he discovers a Japanese general's plan to destroy China's power to revolt against the Japanese.

What this simple story very successfully manages to do, is set up lots of different scenarios for fights. That is what the film is about and in that regard Fist Of Legend delivers. The opening fight in the Japanese school sets the tone for the standard that is to follow. It is Jet versus lots of Japanese students and he methodically and very efficiently removes each one from the fight. Yes, there is a little too much of them all attacking one after the other, rather than at the same time but let's not complain too much! The swift dislocation of the attackers' joints shows the skill of Chen Zhen, but it also shows a different style fight than the usual fare. At this stage it is not punching and kicking, it is blocking then disabling. I thought it was fantastic!

The rest of the fights, while reverting to the more usual choreography still remain of a high standard with both Chin Siu Ho and Billy Chow showcasing their abilities. The final showdown between Jet and Billy Chow lasts about 10 minutes on its own and while great if you just like to watch fighting, it can become a little tiresome if that isn't the only reason you watch these films.

With the film's background message being about the hostility between the Japanese and the Chinese, it is not a surprise that there are quite a few moments in the film where the differences in style between Chinese Kung Fu and Japanese Karate are highlighted. While the bias is obviously towards Kung Fu, it is pleasing to see the Japanese Karate master is given as much respect in the choreography during his fight, allowing Karate to have an equal footing with Chen Zhen's Kung Fu.

For realistic martial arts fans, who are not always best pleased with the more wuxia style films, this film is a must see. The simple story of revenge allows the abundance of fight scenes to shine through, leaving you satisfied, if not a little jealous!

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All review content copyrighted © (2003-2009) Kris Wojciechowski

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