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“Kickboxer’s Tears” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 10 - 2011
I meant to have this review up earlier, but things have been crazy here lately. Anyway, this is a review I’m fairly excited about since it covers my new infatuation with both Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima, two of the baddest girls who have ever come out of the Hong Kong film industry! Read on and have fun, because Kickboxer’s Tears guarantees a good time!

The Plot: Michael Li (Ken Lo) is a kickboxer whose sister is fresh back in town. His sister, Feng Li (Moon Lee) who has never approved of his fighting ways, makes it just in time to catch one of his matches for a seedy promoter who wants him to throw his fight. This evil promoter tells Michael in no short order that if he doesn’t throw his fight, he’s going to pay big time. During the fight, all seems well until Michael’s opponent (Billy Chow) rubs down his glove with chili powder and begins to batter Michael with it. During the fight Michael is blinded and then beaten to death right in front of his sister. After the funeral Feng sticks around in order to help out her brother’s gym, but the seedy promoter hasn’t finished with the Li family. Unknown to him though, Feng Li isn’t one to be trifled with!


Kickboxer’s Tears

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 10 - 2011

Kickboxer’s Tears (1992)
Director: Shen Da Wei
Writers: Shen Da Wei (???)
Starring: Moon Lee, Ken Lo, Billy Chow and Yukari Oshima

The Plot: Michael Li (Ken Lo) is a kickboxer whose sister is fresh back in town. His sister, Feng Li (Moon Lee) who has never approved of his fighting ways, makes it just in time to catch one of his matches for a seedy promoter who wants him to throw his fight. This evil promoter tells Michael in no short order that if he doesn’t throw his fight, he’s going to pay big time. During the fight, all seems well until Michael’s opponent (Billy Chow) rubs down his glove with chili powder and begins to batter Michael with it. During the fight Michael is blinded and then beaten to death right in front of his sister. After the funeral Feng sticks around in order to help out her brother’s gym, but the seedy promoter hasn’t finished with the Li family. Unknown to him though, Feng Li isn’t one to be trifled with!

The Review
I never realized how much I enjoyed watching women kick butt until I recently stumbled upon She Shoots Straight, but that movie really made a world of difference for me. The closest I had ever come to anything like it was watching Michelle Yeoh’s stunt-crazy performance in Police Story III, but if there are movies out there that feature tough women trying to compete with the men and succeeding at it – then you can always count me in. Kickboxer’s Tears marks my personal introduction to the beautiful and brilliant Moon Lee who made her name during the 80’s and 90’s as a tough, no-nonsense action heroine who took part in some pretty outlandish stunts. Including a noted explosion on the set of Devil Hunters (1980) that would cover her in burns.

While Kickboxer’s Tears doesn’t look to be one of Moon Lee’s most dangerous productions, it is infinitely entertaining as a piece of early nineties Hong Kong action. Made during the height of 90’s martial arts cinema, which saw the entire genre being upgraded to modern settings and brought upon the revitalization of Kung Fu cinema in general, this is a film that delivers in all of the right ways. Featuring dynamic fight sequences, an amazing cast and plenty of onscreen violence; Kickboxer’s Tears is a film that was guaranteed to deliver. Pairing Moon Lee with the incredible Yukari Oshima (AKA: the male gang-boss from Ricky Oh: The Story of Ricky that looked a LOT like a girl… and was a girl) together, this is a project that had a whole lot going for it. The two starred together in other titles before, but this was one that really paired the two together in a “unstoppable force meets movable object” type of dynamic. You throw Billy Chow and some unusually disturbing bits of violence in the midst of the action, and you have a potential classic!

A very strong piece of Hong Kong action, Kickboxer’s Tears partially belongs to the “girls with guns” subgenre of HK action cinema mixed with a more traditional form of martial arts cinema. The big difference from your average piece of Kung Fu is the modernization of traditional martial arts away from both the “period” setting as well as the “street combat” that was and is quite popular. Not that the fight choreography has changed up that much from most films of the time, but the “Kickboxing” back-drop for the movie provides a “new” factor. The setting for the movie is based around the world of semi-professional kickboxing, which is an interesting thing to see because it isn’t an area that one immediately equates with Chinese martial arts. The number of Kung Fu artists within K1 (the world most premiere mixed-Kickboxing organization) are very slim and outside of San Shou the western world has seen very little from China’s legendary fighters within modern times.

That doesn’t mean that Kickboxer’s Tears demonstrates some hidden form of martial arts, not in the least. The choreography is very much what one expects from your average Kung Fu feature, but only this time the fighters are wearing shorts and traditional kickboxing garb. The choreography is still the same back and forth (punch, block, punch, block) set-up that you expect from choreographed Kung Fu, but its certainly of the more exciting and fast-paced variety. When the girls take to fighting, in particular, the choreography seems all the more brutal. Moon Lee is the standout from the performers and she truly holds the weight of the film on her back. In terms of her athletic and acting performance, she is the solid rock foundation that the film rests upon and she makes this the exciting piece of action cinema that it truly is.

Listed as a CAT III title of all things, Kickboxer’s Tears features very little of the excessive violence or sex that one seems to expect from the genre. The rating is a bit perplexing to be honest, but I can sort of see where it comes from. The goriest and most shocking sequences in the movie are very small in terms of screen time, but the violence that is here is a bit on the disturbed side. There are some brutal moments that generally involve a box-cutter and some severe spinal cord damage, but this isn’t a title that I would recommend primarily for the on-screen violence.

Part of what makes the movie as memorable as it was for me is the utterly terrible English dub that I watched the movie with. Terrible in all of the ways that make a bad movie “great”, Kickboxer’s Tears packs a considerable amount of really fun dialog. “Stay close to him, and then jab, punch!” may be my favorite line throughout the movie. In the context of the scene, which is during the first kickboxing sequence (which is awfully long, by the way), there are so many things wrong with the line. For one, the two fighters are keeping within range throughout the course of the fight and never step out into jabbing distance. There are no pecking shots thrown from the shoulder, because jabbing doesn’t exactly translate to an “exciting” fight. Just look at Floyd Mayweather Jr. (oh, I went there). Second of all, a jab IS A PUNCH! I’m sure the dialogue was meant to be “jab, hook”, “jab, uppercut” or maybe “jab, straight” but I guess the filmmakers weren’t very knowledgeable about martial arts or the fight game in general.

The Conclusion
Kickboxer’s Tears isn’t a perfect movie by a longshot. In fact, even as a piece of Kung Fu cinema it has issues. The fight sequence between Yukari Oshima and Moon Lee is far too short and doesn’t have the impact that most audience members might expect after the entire movie seems to pit these two against one another. Then there’s that dreadfully long kickboxing match during the first half of the movie, where we see nearly an entire match round-by-round. These are minor inconveniences however, as the overall product is of a high quality standard. I can’t help but recommend the movie, because I haven’t had this much fun with a movie in quite a while. Check it out!

Son of Paleface

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 6 - 2011

Son of Paleface (1952)
Director: Frank Tashlin
Writers: Frank Tashlin, Joseph Quillan and Robert L. Welch
Starring: Bob Hope, Roy Rogers and Jane Russell

The Plot: Bob Hope plays Peter “Paleface” Potter, Jr., a Harvard man who has left school to head back home out west during the turn of the 20th century. His father has recently passed away and has left what appears to be a very large inheritance for Junior, but appearances can be deceiving. The senior Potter, before he died, had collected a rather large number of debts throughout the local community and when Potter goes to collect his inheritance at the bank… he finds nothing but an empty box! Knowing that he’ll be ripped apart if he confesses that there is no inheritance, Junior simply pretends that the inheritance was even more vast than anyone could have imagined. While Junior is forced to put up this charade, a local bandit has an eye on Potter’s money. Mike “The Torch” Delroy (played by the beautiful Jane Russell) is the leader of a rough and tough band of outlaws, but being a lovely young woman she figures she can better take advantage of Potter by using her feminine ways instead of simply pointing a gun. While she heads into town to trick Junior into falling in love, she finds that special agent Roy Barton (Roy Rogers) has been placed on her tail and knows precisely what she and her gang are up to!

The Review
Few characters have so bred themselves as deeply into the American culture as Bob Hope did within his extremely long lifetime. An actor, comedian, singer and all around entertainer, with his life he left us a great deal of treasures. A comedian with a very distinct style, his wit was often sarcastic and would break the fourth wall. His influence can be felt throughout so much of modern comedy, even to this day his contributions are seen in modern cinema. His philanthropy and generosity is well regarded, making the man nearly as beloved as the character he would portray onscreen. When he died we all came to really know just how special a person he was. I know that I personally revisited his work and realized just how well regarded he was in his constant USO trips whenever US troops were stationed overseas. A beloved man, his work in film has been left behind outside of his particular circle of fans, but now Shout! Factory is releasing much of his library on home DVD. Son of Paleface is actually a sequel to Hope’s previous film The Paleface (1948) and shows Hope at his wittiest. Although it is certain that this sort of comedy isn’t going to appeal to all audiences, more people would probably enjoy Bob Hope’s work if they actually got over the fact that it’s from 1952 and simply gave the movie some time.

I’ve always had a vague appreciation for Hope’s work, but generally I knew him more as a personality outside of cinema than from his actual work in front of the camera. He is a man that became bigger than any one single film of his own, and the same could be said of his cast-mate Roy Rogers. Rogers was the epitome of the early cinematic cowboy, when film didn’t really try its very hardest to directly reflect what life was like for the real citizens of the wild west. One look at Roy Rogers with his flamboyantly colorful outfits and today’s cinema-go’ers will likely laugh their heads off, but there is definitely something about Rogers that any fan of movies can get. He’s that onscreen character who may not delve into a dark place in order to recite his lines with passion, but he remains convicted in his performance. Here, with Son of Paleface, he is at his most austere and confident. Riding along with him is Trigger, his famed horse who actually dances during one of Rogers’ many musical sequences. A musical sequence that is soon turned into pure comedic insanity as Bob Hope wanders into town driving an automobile, spewing mud over the entire town, while disrupting a large gathering of people who have came to hear Rogers sing. The sequence is utterly cheesy in its frantic delivery of Bob Hope’s comedy, but it works in establishing the charge that the rest of the movie would then hope to follow.

Also along for the ride is the beautiful Jane Russell who is an actress that I am ashamedly unfamiliar with outside of her name and popularity. Russell is about as seductive as any one woman can get, but also shows a great deal of strength, as we watch her character constantly out-think both Hope and Rogers as the story progresses onward. Her character is the tough cowgirl who is as quick to rob you as she is to shake your hand and her character actually manages to come across as a very empowered woman. This is something rather unexpected, as the movie does sort of deliver on many of the pre-conceived notions that we have about 1950’s Hollywood. The way that Native Americans are portrayed is of course potentially-offensive, but I find that it is always best to watch older films such as this with your judgement-meter turned down ever so slightly because there’s no telling what you or others might think about modern films in fifty years or so. With that said, one reliable aspect about comedy from this era is that it captured that perfect level of absurdity that could really make slapstick like this so much fun. Similar to the work of The Three Stooges or The Marx Brothers from earlier, Son of Paleface features some really cartoonish and over the top comedic bits throughout its run-time.

Bob Hope is the ultimate star of this movie however, as he really steps up to the plate in order to deliver comedic gold. I was actually surprised with how absurd much of the comedy was to be honest. You think of strange and slightly off-kilter humor as if it were some kind of newly crafted device from our own generation, but Hope actually showcased a flare for the non-sequitur. While most of the movie may head in a uniform pattern, every now and then Hope will slip in some bizarre bit of surrealist comedy that hardly seems on topic but is never the less entirely hilarious. The movie is rife with such moments and Bob Hope is there to keep things as far away from being “grounded in reality” as he possibly can.

The Conclusion
As I started this review off, I have to say that there are going to be a strict number of people who will be opposed to liking this movie regardless of what the content actually provides. However, I ask that viewers keep an open mind and they may just find a delightfully funny piece of comedy that seems quite ahead of its time. I give it a four out of five, on pure entertainment levels!

Horror Rises From the Tomb

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 3 - 2011

Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973)
Director: Carlos Aured
Writers: Paul Naschy
Starring: Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen and Víctor Alcázar

The Plot: Our story begins in France, 1454 when practitioners of black magic Aleric de Marnac and Mabille DeLancré are sentenced to death by Aleric’s brother Armand and his friend Andre Roland. Before they are killed, the warlocks curse the execution grounds and the names of their executioners, vowing to wreak their revenge when a relative of Armand de Marnac befriends a relative of Andre Roland. We then cut to France, 1973: Maurice Roland, a local painter, is attempting to piece together his latest work but he never comes close enough to finishing it. His good friend Hugo de Marnac and their girlfriends Paula and Sylvia eventually spend some time together with a couple who tell them of a great psychic. Hugo denies the abilities of the psychic so everyone else pitches in to prove him wrong by going to a séance hosted by the psychic. After a spiritual encounter with the severed head of Aleric de Marnac who tells them of his burial ground, Hugo is still unconvinced; to try and prove he’s right, he offers to drive the group up to his old country home where, according to legend, Mabille and Aleric were executed and buried. Maurice agrees to go as well after he finally completes the painting: A cloaked, decapitated figure holding the severed head of his friend Hugo. The two men and their lovers head out to the estate, following a trail drawn by the relentless curse that promises the rise of the two warlocks once the head of Aleric is unearthed. Will our intrepid heroes survive?

The Review
Horror Rises From the Tomb is one of those kind of Horror movies that carries a lot of entertainment value for several reasons. While certainly maintaining the gruesomeness and brutality required for a good Horror flick, it also carries a solid story arc, a lot of build-up and decent characters to present themselves. Yet, despite this, the presentation value and overall quality is so under-budgeted and unintentionally silly that the movie works in a party setting as well; Horror Rises is the kind of film you can watch seriously, yet still manage to get a good laugh out of it and never feel like a moron for doing so.

First, I have to say it’s always a little odd watching a movie about people being accused of witchcraft and demon summoning being put to death. I always remind myself of how many innocent people in history were killed because of another group’s dogma and beliefs… but in these spiritual Horror movies it always turns out the people being put to death really WERE black magic users and they demonstrate this by cursing their executioners (see also The Devonsville Terror). I bring this up mostly because the opening narration in the movie leads us to believe Aleric and Mabille aren’t really evil doers and that many people in Europe were killed for suspected witchcraft. Well, inappropriate opening narration aside, this movie’s not too bad.

As I said before, the movie has good build-up to it. We get to know our four main characters a little bit before the warlock’s curse is unearthed; everyone is fleshed out pretty well save for the character Sylvia who is honestly just a morality booster with a pretty face along for the ride. The acting overall is what you’d expect in a low budget Spanish Horror film: it’s good, but you get this feeling of archetypes being used a lot in the film. I’ve seen a few Spanish Horror films now and it seems that there’s always a group of characters who are often killed by their own avarice or motivated entirely by greed. It’s like watching an Italian movie and the characters at one point have to talk about vinegar as a primary recipe.

Most character reactions are relatively believable, though. If anything the character of Elvira (one of the house servants that Hugo grew up with) is a little stoic throughout the movie mostly when she has to show sadness. Hugo comes across as a bit of a jerk, but he’s a responsible one. Plus, Hugo is played by the film’s writer, the late/great Paul Naschy, a Spanish novelist/director/actor/light weight champion who produced and acted in several Spanish Horror films. The man had a competent screen presence, and he comes across as a somewhat likable hero in this. Granted, Paul also plays the villain Aleric de Marnac and once again proves to be a good performer in that role, too. He looks pretty intimidating in a cloak and spirit gum and he’s got the crazy eyes necessary for a mystically evil character. Honestly, seeing Naschy as the villain in this movie makes me think he’d play a Shakespearean character very well.

While the acting and dialogue is painless, exposition pulls a little overtime here. After the first spiritual killing spree in the movie, Hugo and Maurice talk about how the mayor and gendarme of the village won’t help them look into the crimes, how the local kids hate their arrival, how the town drunk knows something about what’s going, but we never see any of this.

The cinematography isn’t too bad. The director knows where to point the camera and there are a lot of decent shots. There are several moments though where the camera shakes around as if this were a shot-on-video movie. There are a few questionable scenes in it, like when Hugo and Maurice leave the house armed with a shotgun in hand but they do this for no reason; the next time we see them, they’re in their PJs! There is also one awkward scene near the end where Mabille and Aleric are heavily petting a scantily clad woman they have captive and the scene goes on for about two minutes, again, for no reason. The music that plays is really intense, but there’s no nudity in the scene or anything intensely sexual or any connection to later or current events; I know it’s just padding, but for a movie about warlock related phenomena, you’d think a scene like that would be something plot related.

As a European Horror movie from the seventies, the movie is quite brutal. Most of the female victims will end up getting their tops ripped off before getting killed (you may notice I can’t show most of the gore because of shots like that). The gore effects are pretty decent as well and definitely show a better budget in that department than the rubber bats used for the cavern scenes. However most other death scenes come down to throat slashing and a few off-screen heart-rippings. The death scenes do get a little cheap, though. The first time someone gets their heart ripped out in the movie it happens almost too quick; I can understand someone with mystical powers ripping into another person’s chest cavity and pulling their still-beating heart out (like when Mabille does it, or in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), but an ordinary person with a farm tool… that’s a bit of a reach, even for this movie. Truthfully, that’s nothing compared to when a human body gets reduced to a skeleton wearing a wig or when a guy dies from an intense back scratching; if the latter were the case, my ex would’ve killed me years ago!

Of course, this being a Spanish Horror film released in the states, it’s got its share of dubbing, but thankfully it’s decent. The dub actors play it straight throughout the whole movie, though occasionally, there will be one actor who sounds a little like a pirate. The goofiest performance out of them though has to be the monotone Hispanic voice for Aleric who is supposed to be dark and intimidating. It doesn’t help either that the first time we see him in the present day, he’s a severed head in a box giving orders to the possessed. *

Then there’s the soundtrack. The music in this movie is really something to behold. The soundtrack relies mostly on organ music not unlike Gene Moore’s work in Carnival of Souls, but without the talent. The organ music here carries many Roller Rink sounds to it and is often followed by a relentless wood instrument. The music gets so over the top and fantastical to the point where it sounds like soap opera music. The love theme between Maurice and Paula in particular was pretty goofy. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t keep myself from quipping: ‘Will Elvira be the next of Aleric’s victims? And Will Maurice ever change out of his pink sweater? Tune in tomorrow to find out on the next exciting and touching episode of Days of our Warlocks.’

There’s even a weird scene with Hugo and Elvira where the music is edited awkwardly: the soundtrack kicks in with this inappropriately spooky music and just stops abruptly. The only time the soundtrack works is with the second-long musical stingers. Regardless, the soundtrack was recorded so high and played so intensely, the audio will more than likely cause you to jump out of your seat and reach for the Volume Down button.

Something I thought was unique about the movie was the ancient relic used to ward off the warlock’s evil. Instead of the usual crucifix, the heroes uncover a talisman from Nordic mythology. Okay, it’s kind of weird a holy relic of Nordic mythology would be in France, but it’s still a much welcome break from the standard. Now while the story is interesting and not badly conceived, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mabille and Aleric, two hated and despised Warlocks, were given tombs? I understand burying Aleric’s head from his body in a separate place, but cavernous tombs for criminals?

The Conclusion
In summation though, Horror Rises from the Tomb is a fun Horror movie. It’s a little hard to take it seriously sometimes, but it’s in those times you can get a genuinely good-laugh out of the movie. Plus it’s got an easy story to follow that was pretty well written with a lot of violence, nudity and a random zombie invasion, so it’s all the more recommendable.

*: Curse of the Brain That Wouldn’t Die… I like that

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 2 - 2011

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)
Director: Lau Wai-keung
Writers: Gordon Chan
Starring: Donnie Yen, Shu Qi and Anthony Wong

The Plot: Our film opens with Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) battle against the Japanese in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese War. While on the battle field, he watches as one of his friends from the resistance Qi Tianyuan is killed. After this, Chen Zhen decides to take the identity of his fallen comrade and wanders back into Shanghai and takes refuge with the local resistance against the Japanese. He makes friends with Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong) who gives him a job in his club, where he can keep an eye on the local Japanese who come through. As the Japanese plan to instigate a civil war between the local warlord’s, Chen Zhen takes on the role of a superhero and begins to fight against the invading country using darkness to conceal his identity. Now Chen Zhen has to fight the oncoming Japanese assault and hide himself from the locals at Lie Yutian, including Kiki (Shu Qi) his potential love interest who also happens to be a Japanese double agent.

The Review
I don’t know if I’ve made the point many times before, but I am a huge fan of Jet Li’s immortal classic Fist of Legend. Easily that was the film that would prove to be Jet Li’s finest hour and showcase his ability to carry a martial arts film. It is a movie that still tops the list of “great martial arts movies” amongst even the most hardcore of Kung Fu film aficionados. The action choreography was on a level that few films could compete with and it has an endearing legacy with martial arts film fans the world over. The movie centered around Chen Zhen, a fictional martial artist who was trained by real life Huo Yuanjia (who was represented in the film Fearless by Jet Li) and focused on his search for revenge in response to his master being poisoned. A true event that would be revenged in an act of cultural wish-fulfillment. Jet Li’s film wasn’t the first incarnation of lead character Chen Zhen however, as it was a remake of Bruce Lee’s equally revered The Chinese Connection (aka: Fist of Fury). The character went through another transformation and was reborn during the late nineties with Donnie Yen taking up the role of Chen Zhen on the Fist of Fury TV show. The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen shows Donnie Yen taking on the role yet again and this time he takes it in some very different and unconventional directions. The film moves into the world of superheroes and a bizarre revenge angle that doesn’t seem fitting at first, but somehow manages to find its footing.

Right from the jump, we begin to understand that this is not the same old Chen Zhen that we have grown accustomed to in film-past. Normally Chen Zhen is a patriotic character who is firmly rooted within turn-of-the-century China. With his button up traditional Chinese wardrobe he is the model of everything we expect of a martial arts leading man. The Legend of the Fist takes us out of the expected world of school rivalries and throws us directly into the opening days of World War II within the opening scene as we witness a very intense battlefield experience. The culture shock is immense and the incredibly slick visual style sets this movie apart from any other representation of Chen Zhen before it. We do eventually travel back to the more civilized view of China, but by establishing this twist early on in the film director Andrew Lau gives the character a chance to be reborn into something entirely different from what we have seen from him in the past.

Donnie Yen no doubt appreciates the chance to step into a more diverse and interesting role but at the same time in doing this the filmmakers ultimately stretch the levels of plausibility far beyond their own limits. While I appreciate the attempt at creating something different, one wonders if the film wouldn’t have been more of its own creation had they simply removed the name “Chen Zhen”. In that sense, if you are in the audience expecting a film that will truly deliver upon the promise of Chen Zhen’s story continuing, you may be slightly disappointed.

Using the character of Chen Zhen in order to make a Chinese superhero seems at first to be a rather fitting idea due to its ties with the legendary Bruce Lee, who was nearly treated as a LITERAL Chinese superhero before and after his death. Donnie Yen’s character even dons a “superhero” costume which quite obviously pays favor to another Bruce Lee role, that of Kato from The Green Hornet TV show, but the concept is thrown slam-bang in the middle of an apparently serious international thriller of sorts. The amalgamation of styles unfortunately leads to a project that is more than a little unstable in choosing precisely what it hopes to be. While watching the film, one gets a distinctly “Christopher Nolan” feel at times because unlike many comic-book movies out there this is a movie that does attempt a very serious tone throughout. The music, which is booming and serves as a orchestrated siren of intensity also seems to call to mind visions of Nolan’s Batman pictures. The difference between projects is of course the fact that Nolan’s film is very distinct in its voice and knows precisely how to keep the level of realism heightened just to the point where the audience can latch onto things and remain focused on his tension-fueled action films.

Legend of the Fist has the action in spades, but when it comes to creating a lot of the necessary tension to sustain its story – things tend to fall rather flat. While the action scenes are fantastic, we never have the ability to really buy into the overall project because it all seems so schizophrenic. Not to mention there’s the overabundance of Chinese nationalism, which seems to be the extent of the subtext throughout the movie and of course we have the requisite Japanese villains who like to remain as two dimensional as they possibly can. While the Japanese are portrayed slightly more fair than in the original Bruce Lee film, this portrayal certainly seems like a regression in comparison to the 90’s vision of reconciliation and understanding that was Fist of Legend.

If you ask the majority of fans, the most important aspect of any film of this genre will easily be the martial arts action. While a good story and performances from the main cast are an integral and important part of any Kung Fu film, at the end of the day the project just isn’t worth anything if the choreography is bad or just plain bland. Thankfully tough, when you have Donnie Yen in the lead, these days that is about as good a promise as one can get for well choreographed martial arts action. Entering into his cinematic twilight years, Yen has really found his niche and continues to push the martial arts genre into directions that it has failed to do so in the past. With Legend of the Fist Yen continues the high spirited and fast paced martial arts mayhem that has made his recent Ip Man titles so popular.

Although his style here isn’t as unique or breathtaking, it does manage to excite more than anyone else you could have thrown into this role. The kicks and punches are all universally brutal, but the true excitement of the project is seeing Donnie Yen channel the spirit of Bruce Lee in his role. During the most tense moments of the film Yen genuinely does a Bruce Lee impression as he carves his way through many enemies. Wearing a purely white version of the traditional Chen Zhen uniform, the love affair with Bruce Lee is brought to the forefront and given closure as he mimics the fallen giant far greater than any Brucesploitation actor could have ever hoped to have done; because in these moments Donnie Yen is equally as passionate in his performance.

The Conclusion
If it hasn’t become obvious at this point, there are moments that I genuinely loved within the movie and there are things that really drew me away from it. I lean a little more towards the negative, but I have to commend Donnie Yen for attempting something unique and different with his role. Strange little detours like this simply aren’t too common within this age of Hong Kong cinema. I give the movie a three out of five and recommend it primarily to Donnie Yen’s hardcore fans or those simply looking for a fun piece of action.





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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.