It seems only fitting that I write about Fist of Legend after having just posted about The Matrix. As much as The Matrix borrowed from Ghost In The Shell, it also borrowed mightily from kung fu films such as Fist of Legend — even going so far as to use the same martial arts choreographer, the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping.
To put it quite simply, Fist of Legend represents the pinnacle of both Jet Li’s and Yuen Woo-Ping’s careers, which is saying something because both have a heckuva a lot of great films under their belts. But Fist of Legend represents both at the very top of their game. The result is one of the finest martial arts films of all time.
A remake of Bruce Lee’s classic, The Chinese Connection (aka Fist of Fury), Fist of Legend stars Jet Li as a Chen Zhen, a Chinese student studying in Japan circa 1937. There he confronts constant bigotry and prejudice from many of the Japanese students. Thankfully, as the scene above shows, he’s more than capable of protecting of himself.
The above fight scene isn’t the best one in Fist of Legend, but it happens within the first 5 minutes, and immediately whets your appetite for the many fist flurries to come — though it barely prepares you for the impending martial arts cornucopia.
This might sound blasphemous, but I actually prefer Fist of Legend to The Chinese Connection. Whereas Lee’s film is pretty black and white (Japanese = bad, Chinese = good), Li’s film is a little more complicated, morally. As it turns out, there is both corruption and nobility on both sides, and the martial arts are shown as a way to learn tolerance and compassion — as well as an effective method for handing bigots their kneecaps.
Sadly, there’s not been a good version of Fist of Legend available here in the States. Which, considering its status in the genre, is a crying shame. Thankfully, Dragon Dynasty will be releasing a two-disc “Ultimate Edition” of the film this December, which will hopefully live up to its “Ultimate” title.