image courtesy of Tai Seng



Year of release: 1995 (original series; edited movie released 2002)

Company: ATV

Genre: martial arts

Running time: 120 min.

Director: Lung Shiu-Kee

Script: Lee Yee-Wah, Cheung Kwok-Yuen, Tang Guei-Seem

Action director: Donnie Yen

Producer: Donnie Yen

Stars: Donnie Yen, Joey Meng, Eddy Ko Hung, Lau Chi-Wing

Unrated; contains mild violence

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Fist of Fury

(1995 version)

Fist of Fury

Donnie Yen. Image courtesy of Tai Seng.

To preface this review, I must say that I am not the biggest fan of Bruce Lee's original Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection), which would probably get me lynched by the majority of Lee fanboys. But I find the movie outside of the admittedly good fight scenes boring and plodding. I'm sure the theme of Chinese pride and nationalism is mostly lost on this gweilo, but even if Lee was doing Shakespeare, it probably would have fallen flat due to Lo Wei's inept direction. To that end, surpringly, I enjoyed Donnie Yen's new take on the film. Even though it's nothing great, it's at least more fun than the original snoozefest.

I'm sure most of you know the basic plot of this movie -- Donnie Yen plays Chen Jun, who is the best student of the Wu Yen martial arts school. During the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, Wu Yen and the other schools try to put their differences aside to combat the Japanese. After his sifu (Eddy Ko Hung) is killed during a match with a Japanese fighter, Chen Jun suspects foul play and eventually unravels a plot that shows just how far the Japanese are willing to go to conquer China.

The major difference between this and the original version is that Yen's take was actually a thrity-episode TV series before being edited down to this two-hour film. As such, there are holes in this movie where characters come and go with little explanation. Those who have not seen the original may become lost as to who's fighting who and what exactly is going on. The "series" style also impacts the film in other ways; the longer format (and the differences in movie-goer versus TV-viewers' tastes) create a kind of soap opera atmosphere. While this might work on the small screen in smaller doses, in a movie format, the acting comes off as amateurish at times. Also, despite the series having a HK$45 million (US$6.5 million) budget, at times it looks incredibly cheap, as it is shot on video and uses some cheesy "special" effects.

Fist of Fury

Eddy Ko Hung. Image courtesy of Tai Seng.

Despite these drawbacks, Fist of Fury is still enjoyable viewing material. I grew to like the characters as the film went on, especially Donnie Yen's work as Chen Jun. I've always thought of Yen as one of the more under-rated talents in Hong Kong, who often is his own worst enemy, but Fist of Fury shows that Yen can do good acting work with the proper director. He uses some Bruce Lee-isms, but adds enough of his own into Chen Jun to make it more of a real character versus a cheap Bruce Lee knock-off.

Action-wise, the film is a mixed bag. The fights (directed by Yen) are staged well and are exciting in parts, but they tend to overuse fast and slow motion. The fast-motion is especially unsettling. I get what Yen was trying to do -- show how fast the attacks are -- but the action is so undercranked that it comes off as almost comical, or just plain illogical. Still, in these days of heavy wire and computer use, it was nice seeing some (relatively) old-fashioned ass-beating, and there are a few scenes (such as one where Chen Jun battles a group of masked Japanese assassins) that are really outstanding.

I really can't say how much fans of the original Fist of Fury will enjoy this version; I will say that it is immensely better than the crop of Bruce Lee clones that came after his death. While it is almost absurdly melodramatic in parts, there is a sort of charm running through the film brought about through the actors' performances that makes Fist of Fury a worthy viewing for martial arts fans. The heaping doses of oldschool-style whoopass don't hurt either.

Fist of Fury

Donnie Yen. Image courtesy of Tai Seng.