Fist of Legend
Director: Gordon Chan
Martial arts director: Corey Yuen
Stars: Jet Li, Yukari Kurata
Another version of Bruce Lee's classic Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) with Li as a Chinese citizen studying in Japan during WWII. Li learns that his sifu (teacher) has died and goes back to China, where he discovers the teacher was poisoned by a rival martial arts school run by Japanese. This sets up several subplots which eventually lead us to the true story, where Li must thwart a Japanese general who wants to invade China.
Okay, forget the plot -- especially if you don't know much about WWII history. Forget about seeing this film's nuances if you can't read Chinese. But remember this film if you want to see great kung fu action. Li is in absolute top form here. The martial arts sequences are great; they're the more traditional (long, one-on-one fights with minimal wire use) type, but still wildly exciting. Overall, I just got a sense of impressiveness from Li in this movie; it's terribly hard to watch Fist of Legend and not become a fan of Jet Li. He's at his hard-ass best (the romantic subplot here is not a pronounced as many of Li's other movies) and has the moves to back his attitude up.
The team of Gordon Chan and Corey Yuen produces some outstanding results. The exposition scenes are well-done and the fight scenes are among some of Li's best. You can work with Jet Li and get crap (Lethal Weapon 4) or you can get a great film like this. It should come as no surprise that Li specifically asked to work with Yuen on his US starring debut, Romeo Must Die. If Yuen can get away from Jet Li's shadow (much as John Woo had to do with Chow Yun-Fat) he may become known as one of the world's best action directors. He's already done some work on the X-Men movie, and more offers are sure to follow, especially with the success of HK-influenced movies such as The Matrix.
Those who want to see what Jet Li can really do (without the aid of wires) should check this out.
Note: Dimension's US version is almost uncut, save for a few seconds during the fight scenes (supposedly the movie was going to get a NC-17 rating), but the score has been redone. The dubbing is alright for the most part. It's worth a look if you can't track down the HK version.
Click here to download a clip from this movie (clip courtesy of SMR)
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