Directed by: Wai-keung Lau
Written by: Gordon Chan
Produced by: Gordon Chan, Wai-keung Lau
Starring: Donnie Yen, Chen Zhen, Qi Shu, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Yasuaki Kurata
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Run Time: 105 minutes
In what seems to be extremely common in action movies coming out of China, Donnie Yen returns to fight off the….. wait for it….. the evil Japanese in the loosely based historical action movie Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The Return of Chen Zhen takes place in the period after World War 1 when the British and Japanese are exerting their influence over the Chinese mainland. Supposedly dead, Chen Zhen returns to Shanghai, under an alias of a fallen soldier he had served with during the war to help protect his country from the evil foreign forces. The plot sounds bland because, well, there’s nothing original about it. All of the Blockbusters to come out of Communist China need to be approved by the government and are just a rehashed version of the same propaganda over and over again.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie is the glamorous set design of the Jazz/Swing club that the most of the movie takes a place in but there’re other good things as well. The acting is done well, the way the characters look and of course the intense action scenes that Yen is famous for. The viewer can even get into Yens horrific fake moustache and laugh about how no one can pull off the leather super hero outfit that he wears(after finding it prominently displayed in a store window).
The plot of Legend of the Fist would have so much more potential if it just had a new villain and offered some original aspects in the story itself. It seems as though directors have a virtual checklist of events that have to happen in every new kung fu movie. Evil Japanese characters? Check. Innocent masses? Check. Evil Characters shut down local newspaper or kill off intellectuals? Check. This plot would be forgivable if it had been told maybe once or twice but not the multitude of times that it’s been done in the last year or two. Some movies with similar plots are Yip Man, Yip Man 2(both of these star Yen and are simply amazing), Bodyguards and Assassins, Fearless and Shaolin.
The story is good, the action scenes are everything we’ve come to expect from Donnie Yen but the main problem is the lack of an innovative story. We all like a superhero but it’s the villain that makes the hero important and China needs another villain besides the Japanese or the British. Legend of the Fist is a good kung fu/action movie for people who aren’t kung fu fans or aren’t familiar with the age old story of the oppressive Japanese and British. Yes Japan and Europe did horrible things to the Chinese but that’s no excuse to make virtually every martial arts movie about that. It’s gotten to the point where fans of the genera can’t do one of the things we like doing which is having a kung fu movie marathon with the newer blockbuster movies that have come out of china. Honestly if you want a kung fu movie that does most of these things better you’d be better off watching Yip Man on Netflix. Legend of the Fist is absolutely worth the watch if you’re a Donnie Yen fan or just want to have a random night out with friends watching action movies but if you’re an avid fan of kung fu movies Legend of the Fist is just more of the same with some pretty bells and whistles.