Fist of Legend (1994)Director: Gordon Chan
Starring: Jet Li Lian-Jie, Chin Siu-Ho, Ada Choi Siu-Fun, Nakayma Shinobu
Tagline: Blindfold Kung Fu!
In early 1920's Japan, Chen Zen (Jet Li) is attending school in order to revenge the Japanese occupation of China by learning their technology. Some people take exception to a Chinese student being in a Japanese school and go to remove him by force. Chen kicks all their arses without even creasing his suit.
The beaten student's master tells Chen that his master in China has been killed. Chen decides to return to occupied territory and is met by his girlfriend who says she will wait for him at the docks until the Japanese troops return.
On his return to his old school in China, he decides to challenge the man who killed his master. He does so successfully and finds that the man was no match for his master's style, something must be wrong.
Things take a turn for the worse when the ambitious leader of the Japanese troops, Fuji, kills the defeated master and frames Chen for it. He says the Japanese martial arts clans were bought over to the occupied territory to try and break the Chinese fighting spirit (the "Fist of Legend" of the title).
The murdered Japanese master's students storm Chen's school to try and get back at him. After a big fight, the police arrive and arrest Chen.
A hasty trial is arranged, but it has been rigged by the Japanese to get a conviction. Luckily for Chen, his girlfriend shows up to give him an alibi, even though she damages her reputation by doing so. The judge also is in a hurry to play cricket, so he acquits him.
Back at the school, the new headmaster doesn't want Chen's girlfriend to stay because she is Japanese and they can't find a room in a hotel, so they set up a small shack near Chen's master's grave.
During this time, the master who Chen knew in Japan shows and they fight. The highlight of this is when Chen decides they should fight blindfolded so he won't have the advantage.
There are many more fights after this, leading to a showdown with the leader of the Japanese forces in a very exciting battle.
This is a very popular story and has been filmed many times by stars such as Bruce Lee, Stephen Chow and was even adapted into a TV series. I have also been told that it mirrors the life of the Korean originator of Tae kwon do.
The Kung Fu on display here is among the best I have seen in any movie and the set-ups for the fights are also great. From the advice I have been given by someone with martial arts training is that there is even more to like about this movie if you have knowledge of the area. For example, when Chen fights the man who killed his master, he attacks only the right side of his body and as I was told "he doesn't just beat him, he does it with style."
While I do know that the Japanese were occupying China well before World War II, I didn't know it was doing it so far back. Some of the things in the story are exaggerated, but you have to expect that so it comes out as more dramatic.
The movie does leave the ending open for a sequel, but so far it has never eventuated. Another take on it is that is movie shows the beginning of the guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese occupation of China.
If you have seen this movie, then you would remember the music that is very dramatic and is totally suited to this movie. The main theme has very strident trumpets and a strong string section playing throughout and is very memorable.
When Jet Li arrived at the premiere of Lethal Weapon IV, he was surprised to see how many fans he had and wondered were they came from. This movie is one of the reasons. This is the movie I would most recommend to people who haven't seen one of his films before.