Monday, 29 November 2010

Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen

Hong Kong legend Donnie Yen hits UK screens in the latest Kung-Fu action film to grace our shores, but is it really a Legend or should Chen Zhen just ... not return?

There is a very confusing background to this film. Firstly, this is a sequel to a TV series called Fist of Fury in Hong Kong, that series was a remake from the original Bruce Lee film. Now, Donnie Yen has been made to basically be Bruce Lee including Bruce Lee sounds, fashion and even a Green Hornet hero disguise. It's also directed by Andrew Lau who made Infernal Affairs, but isn't the Andy Lau who was in Infernal Affairs, that's someone else entirely. Understand? Good.

So what's it actually about then? Well, it's based on an ancient legend but yet this film is set before the second Sino-Japanese war in a Shanghai settlement where the British and the Japanese are battling it out with China in the middle. Chen Zhen has come back from fighting the Germans in France and taken the identity of one of his fallen comrades, why he needs to do this is never clear. The whole thing is then set in a club called Casablanca (yawn) which looks like a shoddy Boardwalk Empire (which if you still haven't tried to get hold of then you're an idiot, sorry) and it's all about people double crossing each other, about politics, revolution and stuff I have absolutely no idea about. I'm just not that clued up on Modern Chinese History I'm afraid, and this film didn't help either.

For those who know their Hong Kong cinema, there will be some friendly faces and the fact Andrew Lau is behind this will be enough to put some bums on seats but if you're looking for an action film, it might be best to look elsewhere. There aren't many fight scenes but when they do come up, they are quite good, but nothing remarkable. Yen's fighting is fast and seeing as he must be about 50 now I'm surprised he looks as incredible as he does. Yet his fighting looks comical and it seems as if they have sacrificed power for speed to make it look more impressive but instead it looks like about ten happy slaps a second, not enough to knock out these bad guys, and a lot of 'signature' moves are repeated. The final fight scene was also not that impressive and if you look at what Hong Kong was making 40 years back, it isn't even close to that type of skill.

So perhaps the story is enough to keep you hooked? Well, not really. It's so melodramatic and unsubtle that you can't help but laugh through half of it and the negative display of foreigners has apparently got a lot of Japanese upset, but you don't see the Germans complaining when Hollywood does a war film do you? Also, haven't the Chinese and Japanese always hated each other? I think it's time to move on guys. The British don't get a good rep either, but then the British guy is clearly not British so I don't mind too much.

Overall, I left the cinema without really knowing what was supposed to be going on but keeping with it enough to know who was supposed to be good and bad. The directing was OK and the scale was somewhat small as it felt like it had been made in a studio rather than drawing you into the scene. I can't say I was ever really bored but I was never entertained, it's a poor introduction for those who haven't seen the rich content that Hong Kong cinema provides and I do hope this film brings in more money into their industry but for smaller, more cutting-edge films rather than Hollywood-wannabe cheese-fests like this one.

Maybe see it on DVD if you're really that bothered but with an April cinema release date, don't expect it until Christmas 2011. Ambitious, but ultimately dull.

Rating: 3/10

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