Chen Zhen’s master is killed during a fight against a Japanese martial artist. Chen Zhen travels back to China where he quickly understands that someone has been playing dirty games, and it’s of course the evil Japanese who are behind it all. Now, Chen Zhen, will teach them a lesson!
1994 was a fantastic year for martial arts movies. Two of the best martial arts movies of all time came out that year. Fist of Legend with Jet Li and Drunken Master 2 with Jackie Chan. I consider these two movies and the first Once Upon a Time in China to be some of the best martial arts movies ever made. And with good reason.
Fist of Legend is based on Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. Kind Chinese against evil Japanese. I think this is one of few pure martial arts movies I have seen with Jet Li where he solves every problem with brutal violence. Compared to Wong Fei Hung in the Once Upon a Time in China movies, he is too kind and philosophical in those movies. In Fist of Legend, he kicks ass! But I think Once Upon a Time in China is the best martial arts movie of all time.
I’ve seen many martial arts movies in my life, but Fist of Legend is the most energetic I’ve ever seen. Two fights stand out. The first where Chen Zhen meets an old fox named Fuimo Funakoshi. Both have two things in common. They kick ass and have two awful hairstyles that should never have seen the light of day. Jet Li looks silly, but Yasuaki Kurata surpasses Jet Li with several levels of hair. But you will like the character played by Yasuaki Kurata. He’s a man of honor and has many words of wisdom. It’s so wonderful to see that some Japanese in Chinese movies are portrayed as good and wise people.
The second fight is the best when Jet Li meets the tough badass Billy Chow. I love the short training scene we see with General Fujita before he meets Chen Zhen. If you are going to demolish a house, there is no point in using large, noisy machines. Summon General Fujita, and he will smash everything in his path for a reasonable amount of money. This is one of the best fight sequences ever made!
Who’s behind the action choreography? The master Yuen Woo-ping. It’s rarely you see Jet Li spend most of his time on the ground. In most of the movies he’s in, he uses a lot of wire, and he flies high up in the air. Wires are also used in Fist of Legend, but most are used to amplify kicks and punches, so the person who takes the hit flies backward. It looks a little weird, but it fits perfectly as Fist of Legend is an aggressive movie.
When the movie has so much wild energy and intensity during the fight scenes, you have to accept some fast cutting. It can be a little annoying for us who like to see the fights from a distance and see all the body movements without the camera being too close. But in this movie, it’s nitpicking, so ignore it and enjoy the energy!
It’s not only fight scenes Fist of Legend has to offer. It also tells an interesting forbidden love story that’s not accepted by anyone. The story in Fist of Legend is a mini version of the story in Once Upon a Time in China. Many martial arts movies don’t have a great story to tell, but these movies do.
It’s always interesting when a nation faces new challenges, whether it’s an occupation or new technology that changes the world and makes people come closer to each other. Old traditions are threatened, and we forget much over the years when new technology has arrived. Not to mention when a country is invaded and traditions are spat on.
Do yourself a favor, watch Fist of Legend if you haven’t watched it yet. Run!