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Fist of Fury
|     review    |     DVD notes      |     availability     | "Worship me! I am overly-muscled!"
Donnie Yen goes postal
Year: 1995
Director: Benny Chan Muk-Sing, Leung Yun-Chuen, Wong Gum-Miu, Steve Cheng Wai-Man, Wu Ming-Hoi, Tang Mau-Sing
Producer: Lung Shiu-Kee
Action: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan
Cast: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Joey Man Yi-Man, Eddy Ko Hung, Lau Chi-Wing, Bey Logan
The Skinny: Donnie Yen, ATV, and Star TV joined forces to crank out this made-for-television remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury. Cobbled together from the last fifteen episodes of the TV series, Tai Seng's movie version of Fist of Fury suffers a great deal in the translation. Even the presence of Donnie Yen can't save the movie from being a disjointed, oftentimes silly affair.
Review by
Calvin
McMillin:
     In the years since its release, Bruce Lee's 1972 movie Fist of Fury (released in the US as The Chinese Connection) has become an undeniable film classic. Its story has been remade and referenced numerous times in Hong Kong cinema, from Jackie Chan's 1976 "sequel" New Fist of Fury to Stephen Chow's humorous Fist of Fury 1991 films to Jet Li's popular 1994 remake, Fist of Legend. After experiencing some success on TV portraying the character Hung Hei-Kwan in the Kung Fu Master series, Donnie Yen was offered a hefty sum to return to television in a project of his choosing. Yen agreed, but on the condition that the proposed show be an update of the popular Bruce Lee film. Though Fist of Fury was originally released as a thirty-episode television serial, Tai Seng Video Marketing has re-edited several installments into a single two-hour feature film for American consumption. While the first fifteen episodes of the series created a brand-new backstory for Chen Jun, the second half, which is edited together into this film, lifts scenes directly from the 1972 original.
     Donnie Yen steps into the enormous shoes of Bruce Lee by taking on the role of Chen Jun, a fictional disciple of real life martial artist Fok Yuen-Gaap (Eddy Ko). Set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, Fist of Fury takes place at a time when Sino-Japanese relations were less than ideal. In a plot device straight out of Fist of Legend, Chen Jun falls for the ever so yummy Yumi (Joey Man), a beautiful young woman who just happens to be the daughter of a powerful Japanese official named Takeda. Angered at the cross-cultural romance, Takeda sends some masked anime-style assassins to kill Chen, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Master Fok attempts to unite the rival Chinese schools against the Japanese. But before he can accomplish his goal, he dies from food poisoning courtesy of Takeda's henchmen. Lots of political intrigue, backstabbing, and sappy melodrama ensue, which eventually leads to Chen Jun seeking revenge against the Japanese for the death of his venerable sifu.
     As a tribute to Bruce Lee, Fist of Fury is a mixed bag. Great pains were made to give credit to the master, like the liberal sampling of Enter the Dragon's theme song thoroughout the film. And while it's commendable that the filmmakers made a concerted effort to infuse some of Bruce Lee's personal philosophy into the storyline, little else about the picture is remarkable in that department. Sure, fight sequences from all of Lee's films are referenced, but in every single case the original is superior. Overall, Donnie Yen does a pretty good job of channeling the sheer ferocity of Bruce Lee, but often his exaggerated mannerisms come across as laugh-out-loud silly. Still, that's simply the nature of the beast when one attempts to imitate Lee. Bruce Lee cultivated such a larger than life persona that any aping of his characteristics, no matter how sincere or heartfelt, will always comes across as a parody.
     Furthermore, since the plot of the film has been condensed into a two-hour format, it's no surprise that the project feels disjointed, and the character development seems sketchy at best. As such, it's difficult to evaluate the film properly. The focus is instead put on the fight scenes, which are not horribly atrocious, but due to a lack of a proper stunt team and the prevalence (as Yen reveals on his commentary track) of actors who are either "too old or too soft" to keep up with the film's leading man, many of the action sequences come off as uninspired. The speed of the fights is also an issue that needs to be adressed. With film, the camera can be undercranked, resulting in action scenes that look faster than humanly possible, but are smooth enough to fall somewhere in the realm of reality. However, when a movie is shot on video, as is the case with Fist of Fury, the footage itself must be sped up, which creates a ridiculously speedy fight sequence that looks more appropriate in a kung fu parody than the serious homage this film purports to be.
     Ultimately, Donnie Yen's Fist of Fury can be a lot of fun, but it really depends on the viewer. If one possesses a healthy sense of humor—and keeps their expectations low—Fist of Fury can amount to a fun little diversion. But if you want quality, stick with the original. (Calvin McMillin 2003)
DVD Notes: • There are two audio commentaries for Fist of Fury. The first one features Donnie Yen and "Inside Kung Fu" columnist Dr. Craig Reid. Among other things, Yen talks about the production of the series, Hong Kong films in general, other martial artists, his feelings on Bruce Lee, and even his performance in the then-unreleased Hero (2002). The second commentary features Robin Shou (Mortal Kombat), Tai Seng product marketing manager Frank Djeng, and Dr. Craig Reid again. Though just as informative as the first commentary, Robin Shou and Dr. Reid possess a pun-heavy sense of humor that is worth the price of the DVD alone.
• The first fifteen episodes of the series have been released by Tai Seng as Fist of Fury: Sworn Revenge. The episodes, which detail Chen Jun's backstory, have condensed fifteen episodes into a single 220-minute film.
Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Tai Seng
Widescreen
Cantonese and English Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
"Making of" Featurette, Trailers, Donnie Yen filmography
 

image courtesy of Tai Seng Home Video Marketing, Ltd.

   
   
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