China is traumatized by military cliques during the World
War era in the 1020s, Shanghai is the cynosure of all eyes.
People see it as both Hell’s Kitchen and Heaven’s
Gate/ One of the city’s most memorable heroes has to
be Chen Zhen, who single-handedly avenges his mentor’s
death by killing all the Japanese at a dojo in Hongkou, only
to be showered with bullets while making his legendary flying
kick. Vanished from the public eye ever since, he has been
taken dead though his body is never found.
years later, a wealthy entrepreneur called Koo returns from
abroad and makes a grand entrance on the Shanghai social scene
by befriending the notorious mafia boss of the city. This
mysterious man is none other than Chen Zhen in disguise who
dwells in a world of nefarious means in order to infiltrate
the criminal empire. He soon discovers a clandestine collusion
between the mafia and the Japanese.
Disguised as a caped crusader at night, Chen sets out to dismantle
with his martial arts skill the evil collusion that plaques
the country. One of his foremost missions is to ferret out
the assassination list prepared by the Japanese.
This unofficial continuation of the 1994’s Jet Li starrer, "Fist of Legend" by all means is a failure on all accounts despite a stellar cast consisting of Donnie Yen, Shu Qi, Anthony Wong with Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) at the helm and Gordon Chan (Fist Of Legend) onboard as one of the screenwriters.
After an explosive opening set in World War II France where our hero Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) single-handedly takes out a bunch of Nazis, (some might argue that this sequence easily matched the value of your entry ticket), the movie struggles to keep up with all the happenings that it promised and established subsequently. The pacing is helplessly uneven as Chen Zhen moves to glamorous Shanghai disguised as a rich man Qi and finds his solace in the form of a cabaret singer Ki Ki (Shu Qi). At night, Chen disguised as a mask man fighting crimes and soon finds himself in a mission to wipe out the Japanese armies.
The script by Gordon Chan and his three writers reek heavily of nationalism forgetting that this is a tiresome, same old same old plot cycle that audience have seen countless times over the years. Chan and gang should take a leaf out of Tsui Hark "Once Upon A Time" series as his political nuances were far more subtle and noteworthy. If Andrew Lau were trying to beef up Shu Qi’s role and dramatic turn, this is perhaps the wrong genre to showcase her talents. The revelation of Ki Ki in the end not only cranked up the cliché factor but also the main reason why the whole movie sagged in the middle and diffused in so many directions that the character of Chen Zhen is left with a mere flimsy caricature.
Is Lau trying to establish Chen Zhen as a masked vigilant who fights crime after dark? Or is he the national hero who is going to pull another déjà vu attempt on the Japanese? The treatment of Chen Zhen is never that focused. We all knew he survived and escaped after avenging his mentor’s death by killing all the Japanese at the dojo but why is he repeating his act is perplexing.
The prolific Yen I would daringly say has little to be blame for the lackluster scripting. Well, he did apparently accomplish another satisfying role as stunt coordinator and lead actor. The opening scene and hand-to-hand combat sequence in the rain marks his confidence and once again cement his superior skills as a coordinator. As an actor, he gave a charming performance as the flamboyant Qi and the suffering Chen Zhen. Anthony Wong on the other hand has little to show given his seemingly uninteresting role as the boss of Casablanca night club. Mainland actor Huang Bo mainly provides the movie’s much needed comic relief. Shu Qi who took up a majority of the screentime of course should take most of the hits as her role is neither that engaging nor satisfying to begin with.
The production values are definitely glossy. The explosions definitely made an impact. However, comparing this with Gordon Chan’s own remake of the Bruce Lee classic back in 1994, "Legend Of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen" fares more like a cheat sheet, betting itself solely on Donnie Yen’s rising star power. Heck, they even throw in a near naked shot of Donnie Yen for good measure. The man sure can fight, his build terrific but he surely can’t save the movie on his own.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The Making of are two short segments featuring interviews with Donnie Yen, Shu Qi, Andrew Lau, Gordon Chan and a handful of behind-the-scenes footages. The DVD also comes with the Theatrical Trailer.
The visual presented are sharp, dark shades are excellent portrayed. The Dolby Digital 5.1 packs quite a punch especially during the dynamic sparring sequences and the occasional explosions. Unfortunately, this Code 3 DVD lacks a Cantonese soundtrack.
by Linus Tee
Posted on 30 November 2010