AKA: Tekken, Legend of God's Fist, Legend of Tekken, Fight Zone, God of Fist Style, In the Name of Heroes, The Legend of the Fist Master
The Avenging Fist
Before its release in 2001, The Avenging Fist had some anticipation among Western viewers as the filmed version of the popular video game Tekken. Unfortunately for fans of the game, Wong Jing "forgot" to secure the rights before shooting began, and was sued by the game's creators. Of course, Wong wasn't willing to let a little thing like a lawsuit stop him, and so progressed on with a new script. Well, perhaps, "new" might be a misnomer -- this is Wong Jing after all. The Avenging Fist's story might not be based on Tekken, but it sure has a lot of similarities to another popular video game, Street Fighter II, a game Wong already used for inspiration in City Hunter and Future Cops.
Taking place in a bleak, Blade Runner-eqsue future, The Avenging Fist centers on a young man named Nova (Wang Lee Hom) whose father, Thunder (Yuen Biao), disappeared at an early age, and so he spends his days fighting. Thunder was involved in the development of a device called "the Power Glove" (which, in another Wong Jing classic "homage", was actually the name of an old Nintendo peripheral) which enhances a fighter's "internal arts" and makes them near-invincible. An evil general known as War 21 (played by Roy Cheung, in a role swiped from the character of M. Bison from Street Fighter II) is looking to perfect the Power Glove by capturing the world's best fighters and taking their "psychic energy," and Nova and his friends become prime targets.
Well, okay, the story isn't exactly earth-shattering, but remember that this is Wong Jing and Andrew Lau -- the kings of Hong Kong "pop" filmmaking -- we're talking about here. Their collaborations are known for style over substance, and being basically brainless entertainment. While none of their movies could really be considered "artistic" or "masterpieces," at their best, they deliver solid, if unchallenging, entertainment. The big problem with The Avenging Fist that there is so little substance, so little for the viewer to care about, that it ends up feeling a bit flat and dull.
Wong obviously was banking on the connection to Tekken to sell the movie, as well as the special effects, which were considered high-end back in 2001, especially for a Hong Kong production. But, CGI effects tend not to age well, and this is a case in point, with what was once fairly impressive now looking shoddy, not even to the level of your average generic SyFy channel movie of the week.
However, even if the special effects were the cream of the crop, all the best "eye candy" in the world can't save The Avenging Fist from its' worst enemy -- the script. The movie starts out with a bang, with several fight sequences, but then slows down to a crawl as the story is ever-so-slightly drawn out inch by inch -- there are attempts to create suspense, but really any viewer should be able to see the "twists" a mile away, and so the "suspenseful" moments just become boring. Of course, there is also a romantic subplot, which is handled with all the style of your typical soap opera. There were some bits which were just unbelievably cheesy (flying around in the clouds and crud like that) that almost made me wretch and wish for the "good old days" of Ekin Cheng romancing Hsu Chi in the Young and Dangerous movies.
Though to its credit, The Avenging Fist's finale is fairly exciting stuff, with action director Corey Yuen managing to get in some actual martial arts, and manages somewhat to make the viewer forget the crap that proceeded it. It's a bit sad really, because it shows that if it was put together right, The Avenging Fist could have been a tight 90-minute action movie. Instead, like many post-handover Hong Kong movies, it tries to be everything to everyone and loses something in the process.
Well Go USA has released a DVD of this film for the North American market. The DVD appears to have been created from the same materials from Mei Ah as the Hong Kong version released by Deltamac and is uncut from the original theatrical release.
The DVD is available from Amazon.