DVD Review: Fist of Legend (1994/2008)

Hi all…

It was my pleasure recently to watch Fist of Legend in its Two-Disc Ultimate Edition from Dragon Dynasty. This 1994 film starring Jet Li and Chin Siu-Ho teams them with a brilliant fight choreographer, Yuen Wo-ping (who also choreographed Tai Chi Master and The Matrix), for a brilliant combination of story and martial arts prowess. As if that weren’t enough, this movie is also a tribute to Bruce Lee‘s classic movie The Chinese Connection.

[rating:4/4]

Before I get into the plot of this great story, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the history that sets the stage. In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) invaded and attacked China. They started with Beiping and Tianjin, then reinforced and attacked Shanghai, eventually taking it after a hard fought battle with the Chinese. Over the next few years, fighting continued and horrible losses were suffered on all sides.

Fist of Legend - Box ArtWhen the United States dropped Fat Man and Little Boy on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was the beginning of the end for Japan.

Fist of Fury begins with Chen Zhen (Jet Li), a Chinese student in Japan, discovering that his Master Huo back in Shanghai had been defeated by the Japanese in a challenge. Chen Zhen headed back to Shanghai to investigate his master’s death.

Over the course of the story, we see Li always trying to do what’s best for his Master’s school and for China. This puts him squarely in the sights of the Japanese, who do their best to make his and his friends’ lives very difficult. Eventually, Chen Zhen sacrifices himself to avoid further bloodshed.

As a martial artist, Jet Li is among those at the top of my list. Bruce Lee will always be #1. Jet Li is #2. And Jackie Chan is #3. All three are amazing to watch. And this movie solidifies Jet Li’s position as the greatest living martial artist of our time for me.

Fist of Legend - Jet Li

Where else can you see Jet Li fight blindfolded during one battle, fight with a belt against an opponent with a katana, and hardly break a sweat until the final battle of the movie? He was at the top of his form for this film (not that he isn’t now, but he’s not doing this type of movie any longer).

And unlike Tai Chi Master, there is no obvious wire work done. Most of the amazing fight choreography is simply that — amazing choreography with a cast of unbelievable martial artists.

Fist of Legend - Jet Li Flying KickThis two-DVD set will be available on Tuesday, September 9. The discs include:

  • Commentary from Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
  • An interview with director Gordon Chan
  • An interview with Japanese Action Legend Kurata Yasuaki
  • A screen fighting seminar from the Kurata Action School
  • Commentary from director Brett Ratner and critic Elvis Mitchell
  • A set of five deleted scenes

It’s jam-packed with martial arts movie goodies. And, this is the unrated version at 103 minutes. If you are a martial arts movie fan or a fan of Jet Li’s, this movie is a must have for your collection!

Get your copy on September 9, 2008!

It gets a solid 4 out of 4 for me.

–Fitz

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Tai Chi Master Packs a Punch! Released July 29!

Tai Chi Master Box ArtHi all!

I was recently given a rare treat to review – a martial arts movie made in the early 1990s starring Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. Tai Chi Master, also known as Tai ji: Zhan San Feng, was directed by Yuen Wo-ping, widely acclaimed as one of the greatest martial arts directors of all time. (Brett Ratner of Rush Hour fame talks about Wo-ping in one of the special features on the DVD.)

[rating:3/4]

Watching Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh in a martial arts movie together is just amazing. Both are fun to watch as martial artists and can act. What a concept!

You can read more about this movie at IMDB here.

Tai Chi Master - Jet Li

The general synopsis is:

A pair of lifelong friends are expelled from their Shaolin temple after being accused of cheating.  Tienbao (Chin Siu Ho) becomes a powerful and oppressive military leader while the other, Junbao, (Jet Li) joins the rebels.  Only the discipline of Tai Chi can help Junbao defeat his former friend.

There are a number of great fight scenes, but what got me with this film is that it has a heart. Junbao does everything he can to avoid having to fight his friend Tienbao. But in the end, he must defeat him.

Tai Chi Master - Michelle Yeoh

The story propels the movie forward (unlike some martial arts movies) and the acting and action are fun and frenetic. What’s not to like?

The only thing I’ll say is that there are little things about the movie that detract from it. Though the wire work is great, there are times where you can tell it’s wire work – not as smooth as something like Crouching Tiger or Hero. But other than that, this is a great martial arts movie faithfully reproduced on DVD.

So I’ll give this 3/4. Be sure to check it out if you like martial arts movies, Jet Li, or Michelle Yeoh!

Tai Chi Master will be released on July 29th! Be sure to look for it at Amazon or other retailers!

Until next time, go see a movie!

–Fitz

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