Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (Collector's Edition)
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover
Running Time: 1:46:09
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||1080p high definition 2.40:1||Standard and high definition|
|Audio||DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1, Mandarin 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 2.0, Mandarin 2.0||Stereo|
|Subtitles||English||English (burned in)|
The Feature: 3.5/5
So who is Chen Zhen and where has he been?
For the uninitiated, Chen is the fictional kung fu fighter who made his first appearance in Bruce Lee's 1972 film "Fist of Fury" (known at one point Stateside as "The Chinese Connection," thanks to a ridiculous title import mix-up). The story was pretty much a straight-up revenge plot, with Chen seeking to avenge the murder of his kung fu master (presented as the real life martial artist Huo Yuanjia) at the hands of occupying Japanese forces in early 20th Century China. The character and story got a major reboot in 1994's "Fist of Legend," which starred Jet Li as Chen and featured the martial arts choreography of Yuen Woo Ping. Though its box office performance was disappointing at the time, today it continues to make top 10 martial arts movie lists and remains one of Li's finest efforts. A year later in 1995, Hong Kong television produced a 30-episode series starring a lesser known Donnie Yen as Chen, doing his best to reproduce Bruce Lee's trademark mannerisms. The series thus aptly reinstated the "Fist of Fury" title, though the story was ultimately more expansive than either of the feature films, incorporating more of an espionage element and political dynamic into the affair. The series seemed to end rather conclusively - as it did in the original movie - making a feature film sequel seem like somewhat of a stretch. Of course, Yen's popularity has also skyrocketed since then, thanks in part to the "Ip Man" movies, so the character's return was inevitable regardless.
For the followup, writer-producer Gordon Chan (who coincidentally directed and co-wrote "Fist of Legend") jumps ahead 10 years after Chen's initial dust-up in the Japanese dojo. In that time, Chen has eluded capture, fought in the First World War alongside French and British allies, and has now returned to Shanghai as part of an underground movement against the Japanese, who are preparing to invade China despite claims of partnership and good will. Chen's mission is covert at first, as he takes on the name of one of his fallen comrades and works his way in to management of the Casablanca nightclub, owned by the local tycoon Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong) and featuring the beautiful - but duplicitous - cabaret singer Kiki (Shu Qi). But as the Japanese scheme to destabilize the country, assassinating Chinese citizens and foreigners who would foment an uprising, Chen must take more aggressive action. Donning a domino mask and chauffeur's cap to hide his identity, he stops a major political assassination and inadvertently begins to build a mythical aura as the "Masked Warrior," a figure of resistance the Chinese can rally behind. But the local Japanese commander Colonel Chikaraishi (Ryu Kohata) is also no fool and sees through Chen's ruse, figuring out that the new nightclub manager is both the man behind the mask as well as the fugitive they've been trying to find for the last 10 years. The Colonel thus begins to unleash hell on Chen's friends and loved ones, leading to an inevitable confrontation. The only question is will Chen manage to escape this one as he did before?
At times "Legend of the Fist" feels less like a sequel and more like yet another remake of the original Chen Zhen story, albeit with some tropes borrowed from other genres. There's the star-crossed lovers war drama, with Chen's romance with the cabaret singer, and there's the super hero flick, with Chen's assumption of a masked identity that becomes a symbol of hope (a nod to the Batman mythos in philosophy and Bruce Lee's Kato character in costume). While these new elements provide some flash and distraction from the core revenge arc, the conclusion is ultimately the same, down to the one-against-many showdown in the Japanese dojo. At one point Chen, upon entering the place where he mopped the floor with Japanese soldiers 10 years ago, notes that nothing has changed - which couldn't be more true, at least for the film's climactic sequence. All of the tension and drama of the final fight is gone as a result, as we've seen it all before and will ultimately see it all again. I also couldn't help thinking of the superior fight choreography of "Fist of Legend" for the same sequence, which did more with less and sold the believability of one man being able to take on an entire company of armed soldiers. Though "Legend of the Fist" has some solid moments and can't be blamed for trying to do things differently, it ultimately didn't do it enough where it mattered most. The inclusion of the other genre elements also means less kung fu to go around, which is problematic for a film that is first and foremost a martial arts movie.
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Mandarin dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is detailed and clear, though intelligibility is another matter since it's not my native language. Surround activity is seamless and enveloping, particularly rainfall effects, though support for the score is also nicely balanced. Bass activity is deep and clean and LFE, with a number of explosions and atmospheric effects, is similarly robust. High frequency detail is also impressive with the crispness of gunfire and cracking sounds of breaking glass and wooden objects.
Special Features: 3/5
The extras are largely split between behind-the-scenes video footage from production and interviews with the cast and crew. Of the two the former is the more interesting as it provides a glimpse of the power and precision behind the film's major fight scenes.
Theatrical Trailer (2:18, HD)
International Trailer (1:11, HD)
Behind the Scenes (SD)
- War Zone (7:57) shows various sequences from the urban battlefield set.
- Casablanca (9:34) shows various sequences from the Shanghai nightclub set.
[Disc Two (DVD)]
Behind the Scenes (SD) contains about 30 minutes of video footage from production. Action sequences get most of the attention and are undeniably impressive, even in their raw form.
- Tianjin Street (3:32) shows various fight and action sequences in Shanghai.
- Market Place (5:28) shows various dramatic scenes involving the character of Kiki.
- Newspaper Office (3:19) shows various scenes on the office set, along with details of the physical elements, props, and stunts.
- Japanese Headquarters (3:04) shows various sequences inside the enemy lair.
- Student Movement (3:48) shows various sequences involving the Chinese student protest group.
- Hongkou Dojo (11:02) shows fight sequences inside the Japanese martial arts dojo.
- Andrew Lau (16:07), Director, provides a plot synopsis, analysis of the main character, and working with members of the cast and crew.
- Gordon Chan (1:43), Producer and Writer, answers questions about the direction he takes the main character.
- Donnie Yen (9:23) talks about how they told the familiar story in a different way, the style of action choreography, and working with members of the cast and crew.
- Shu Qui (9:44) talks about her character and working with Yen.
- Anthony Wong (2:58) talks about his character as the nightclub manager and working with the cast and crew.
- Huang Bo (5:16) talks about retelling the Chen Zhen story, the character he plays, and working with the cast and crew.
- Kohata Ryuichi (3:58) talks about his character and what drew him to the part.
The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5
For the sequel to a well tread martial arts tale, Well Go USA turns in a problematic video presentation coupled with an impressive lossless audio experience. The special features aren't particularly in-depth, but the behind-the-scenes video footage should intrigue anyone interested in martial arts fight choreography. Along the same lines, enthusiasts will likely be the only ones to enjoy the feature; everyone else is better off catching Jet Li's superior "Fist of Legend" instead.