Fist of Legend (1994) / Action-Drama
Jing wu ying xiong

MPAA Rated: R for violence
Running Time: 103 min.

Cast: Jet Li, Billy Chow, Shinobu Nakayama, Ada Choi, Yasuaki Kurata
Director: Gordon Chan
Screenplay: Gordon Chan, Toa Lan Kay, Yip Kwong Kim
Review published February 14, 2006

Fist of Legend is the updated remake of the classic Bruce Lee film, The Chinese Connection, this time starring Hong Kong superstar Jet Li (Fong Sai-Yuk, Fong Sai Yuk II).  Lee's are big shoes to fill for the diminutive Li, but if anyone can do it in a serious way, Jet can.

Here we have Li as a Chinese martial arts student studying abroad in Japan, who returns to his homeland after learning of his schoolmaster's death. Upon entering Shang-hai, he discovers that the Japanese have invaded and suspects his master was murdered, poisoned before a match with the head of a prominent Japanese school. Now he vows revenge, but is exiled due to conflicts with the new schoolmaster, as well as his refusing to leave his Japanese girlfriend.

Is this as good as the original? Well, that's a matter of opinion. Fist of Legend certainly has better acting and fighting, and it's a much better production overall. However, as incredible as Li is, he still lacks a formidable presence that only Bruce Lee has been able to muster in the world of martial arts cinema.

Further on the downside, the story is obviously old fashioned, remade countless times in so many other forms, that it is difficult not finding it to be wholly predictable and unexciting when no action is going on. Still, when there's action, there's lots of it, and well done action at that, brilliantly choreographed by the great Yuen Woo-ping (Iron Monkey, Once Upon a Time in China).

Recommended for some key fight scenes, and in particular a satisfying final battle between Li and Billy Chow (High Risk, Tai Chi 2) for the fate of the school and perhaps the country. Fist of Legend delivers the goods promised for action fans, but nothing you don't expect.

Qwipster's rating:

2000 Vince Leo