Crisp Hong Kong Action
Jet Li pays homage to Bruce Lee with Fist of Legend (Jing wu ying xiong), a remake of the martial arts icon’s own Fist of Fury. Hong Kong filmmaker Gordon Chan and martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (Drunken Master, Iron Monkey) take full advantage of Jet Li’s world-class fight skills, showcasing his raw physicality and lightning moves in some of the very best martial arts footage from the 1990s.
A revered martial arts disciple, Chen Zen (Jet Li) returns to his Chinese homeland when his master is killed in competition by a Japanese martial artist and finds things have changed a great deal for his dojo. Studying abroad in Japan, he has fallen in love with a young Japanese woman. The dojo master’s son has taken over the Jingwu School in his father’s place.
Jet Li pays homage to Bruce Lee with Fist of Legend
Jet Li pays homage to Bruce Lee with Fist of Legend
Taking place during the Imperial Japanese occupation of Shanghai in 1937, the Chinese-Japanese conflict underlie the drama with nationalistic impulses. Gordon Chan’s screenplay doesn’t forget movie audiences are coming for the impressive martial arts sequences and Jet Li’s commanding physical presence. This is a peak Jet Li in some of the best fights ever staged on screen, remaining fairly authentic and grounded by the loosely historical drama as a backdrop.
Fist of Legend’s ambitious plot and narrative reach far beyond the aspirations of most standard kung fu flicks. It’s a generally engaging narrative packed with betrayals, courtroom drama, and a little romance. The martial arts sequences range from solid to amazing, far more involved and realistic than earlier Shaw Brothers flicks or even Bruce Lee. Watch Jet Li credibly battle literally dozens of dojo students at once. Fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping’s elegant work would find a bigger platform in The Matrix.
One minor issue is that few actors are matches for Jet Li’s abilities on screen and it poses a challenge pairing him with other dynamic performers of his caliber. Chen Zen’s final showdown comes against the militant Japanese fighter Fujita in a battle which is nice but predictable.
Being completely honest, Fist of Legend is a wee bit overrated in the annals of martial arts films. The flick is a solid rehash of Bruce Lee’s classic and Jet Li certainly imparts his own unique action style to each battle. That makes for high-flying kung fu from the 90s, but the film probably isn’t in the top 25 martial arts features of all time. One hint that may be true was its somewhat disappointing box office results in Hong Kong.
Ronin Flix reissues Fist of Legend on Blu-ray in a presentation which largely mirrors the earlier Dragon Dynasty disc from 2010. They tout “a digitally retouched version of the best available high-definition (1.85:1) master” in their ad copy, cleaning up a few of the existing defects. In terms of pure video quality, it’s an older telecine transfer from the negative with some depth and decent clarity. Likely sourced from whoever is managing Miramax’s assets in the United States, some ringing is off-set by its pleasing contrast and saturated primary colors.
The movie has had a tortured history on home video, first brought to market in North America with a cut version dubbed in English by Miramax which deviates from the original Hong Kong version and the padded Taiwanese alternate cut. Ronin Flix more or less gives us the completely uncut Hong Kong version running over 103 minutes. The 1.85:1 presentation is from unrestored elements but offers adequate grain reproduction. It’s not a perfectly film-like effort but provides serviceable fidelity.
The AVC encode is given a BD-50 with excellent results, capturing the minimally evident wear and tear visible in the elements with precision. However, a completely new 4K scan of the negative would produce better definition and finer detail. This HD master as it stands does not look ready for UHD.
Fist of Legend’s audio has a checkered history, rectified here by Ronin Flix. While the English dub by Miramax is heard in 5.1 DTS-HD MA with resounding authority and dynamics, it contains poor translations that deviate wildly from the original Cantonese audio, changing whole story elements. Which is a shame as the English dub recording itself is high quality with strong Foley effects. The surround mix improves the spatial separation in the fights, making the soundtrack more immersive with real kick.
The best and most proper way to hear Fist of Legend is its original Cantonese soundtrack, found here in 2.0 DTS-HD MA mono. Mandarin audio is also included in 2.0 DTS-HD MA mono. Both aren’t as flashy in terms of sound design or impact, but far more faithful to the original intent of the Hong Kong filmmakers.
Optional English and English SDH subtitles play in a white font. Ronin Flix provides a new English translation from the original Cantonese version of the film, a vast improvement by most accounts over earlier translations.
Initially only available from Ronin Flix’s own website, Fist of Legend is available in a limited edition Jet Li 2 Movie Collection with Tai Chi Master. They are bundled together in separate BD cases with a custom cardboard slipcover.
Most fans are aware Fist of Legend made it out on Blu-ray in North America once before from Vivendi Visual’s Dragon Dynasty sub-label. Ronin Flix has ported over all the prior supplements from that disc with one exception – an excellent 2008 Bey Logan commentary. Bey Logan has become persona non grata since certain revelations have come to light about his past behavior. Ronin Flix avoids his situation altogether by dropping the commentary.
The disc is coded for all regions. English subtitles are provided for the special features.
Fist of Legend Deleted Scenes (05:10 in SD)
Man Behind the Legend: An Exclusive Interview with Director Gordon Chan (35:37 in SD)
Brother In Arms: An Exclusive Interview with Kung Fu Impresario Chin Siu-ho (23:20 in SD)
The Way of the Warrior: An Exclusive Interview with Japanese Action Legend Kurata Yasuaki (29:43 in SD)
The School of Hard Knocks: A Screen Fighting Seminar at the celebrated Kurata Action School (26:34 in SD)
A Look at Fist of Legend with Director Brett Ratner & Film Critic Elvis Mitchell (09:38 in SD)
Fist of Legend Original Theatrical Trailer (02:47 in SD)
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page.
First of Legend
Hong Kong action legend Jet Li’s signature martial arts flick remakes a Bruce Lee classic
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