We are so often caught up in the conflicts of our own society throughout history, to the point where we are perhaps the only people in existence. We look back on the battle for equality for all races, using our own as a standpoint; “everyone should have the same rights as us white folk”. So it’s always interesting and humbling as part of the collective Western audience to learn a little about other conflicts, in the same way “Hotel Rwanda” brought us the problems in Africa or “Last Life in the Universe” taught us a little about the cultural brick wall between Thailand and Japan.
“The Fist of Legend” highlights the race issues between China and Japan in pre-world war society with a classic kung-fu background providing the main plot driver. I was recommended a list of Kung-Fu movies to watch and this was one, however I opted for Jet Li instead of Bruce Lee’s “Fist of Fury”, I find Jet Li although from a different martial arts background to be the more versatile.
The issue of race is presented almost instantly as about 5 minutes in we are presented with the initiating scene. A group of Japanese martial arts students burst into the class room: “Chinaman get out!”, Jet Li re-lids his pen in ready for our first confrontation.
The fight scenes are brutally beautififul, so refreshing from the wire-aided fighting of today. There is also an
element of humour in this, our first fight scene, for example Li’s character dislocating someone’s jaw and various groin-aimed punches.
The story follows Chen Zen (Li) as he learns of his his masters suspicious defeat by rival Japanese Fighting school master Akutagawa. This is a story primarily of revenge, which probably isn’t a good moral background, but is the premise of a lot of Kung-Fu movies (if cliche is anything to go by).
Anyone who has had the pleasure of viewing “Fearless” or “Hero” or any epic envolving Jet Li, you may realise his style is very staff orientated, watching him mimic Lee’s (Fist of Fury, the predecessor of the film) fighting style, there is even a scene in the final fight where Li’s punch is blocked and he uses his figers to attack his opponent, legend has it Bruce Lee could indent solid pine using only his fingers. Also mimiced is Lee’s training style in another scene, Li is seen doing push-ups using only 3 fingers.
This is one of 5 of my first pre-Crouching Tiger martial arts movies, others are late night re-dubbed Jet Li cop shows or Jacki Chans “Rumble in the Bronx”. And I think it would be perfect for anyone who wants to get into Kung-Fu movies.
That said, please do yourself a favour and buy a copy with subtitles.