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Capsule Reviews

Fist Of Fury    (1972)
This electrifying piece of martial arts cinema stands as Bruce Lee’s greatest accomplishment in a tragically short filmmaking career. It redefined his reputation and remains one of the genre’s most influential films of all time.

Set in the 1930s Shanghai, Chen Zhen (Bruce) returns to the Jing Wu school, where he had studied martial arts for many years, upon hearing that his teacher Fok Yuen-Gaap / Huo Yuanjia has died. He arrives during the funeral and is devastated by the loss of his beloved master, as are his fellow students from the school. However, it is soon revealed that Master Fok died under mysterious circumstances, and may have even been poisoned by a rival martial arts academy. After it becomes apparent that a local Japanese school may be responsible, Chen vows to find out the truth behind is master’s death. Finally, having become frustrated with an ineffective police investigation and his fellow student’s reluctance to stand up and fight, Chen pursues a dangerous mission of vengeance against the Japanese who wish to subjugate the Chinese on their own land.

Fist of Fury remains not just one of Bruce’s most highly regarded films, but one of the most influential martial arts films ever made. The quality of the production, the fight choreography, the acting and relevance of themes still stand strong today. It raised the bar even higher compared to what Bruce had done previously and heightens the emotional stakes, making this a highly charged revenge-action film with obvious heartfelt social commentary.

The action scenes also up the ante after introducing his lightning quick movements and stunning physicality in his previous film, Big Boss. In the famous scene in which Chen sets foot in the Japanese dojo, he annihilates the Japanese students with brutal unarmed combat before switching to the nunchakus (his first time using them in film) and obliterating every standing opponent. In this scene he also makes two students eat the famous ‘Sick Men of Asia’ sign before walking out, leaving the Japanese scattered in agonizing pain.

Chen was a true hero, defending not only the Chinese, but in modern reflection representing all subjugated people – standing up and defending those who needed support and encouraging victims to rise up and remain united. Bruce also had the opportunity to participate in some of his most impressive fight work ever witnessed (he was co-action director on the film). The fight against the Japanese school is a prime example of this, and vastly increases the number and variety of his opponents after he took on a large group of Thais in Big Boss. Within this jaw-dropping display, he unleashes strings of chain kicks, knocking opponents to the ground, left right and centre, before raising the pain bar several notches with the nunchaku.

Later, he goes toe to toe with Robert Baker, one of his real-life students who is seen here as Petrov, a Russian fighter conducting business with the boss of the Japanese school. The Petrov fight is exceptionally tense and makes the viewer respect each fighter’s unique talents, such as Chen’s unrivalled speed and Petrov’s mighty strength and body locking ability, which Chen only escapes by biting his opponent.

The fight against Suzuki (Riki Hashimoto), the Japanese boss, is amazing to watch and appears to pay homage to the traditional Japanese swordplay genre, as Chen must take on Suzuki’s lethal katana. The influence and impact of Bruce Lee’s Fist Of Fury is undeniable, at the very least in the amount of tribute films and remakes that have been made. Fist of Fury II, starring Bruce Li (a fake Bruce Lee) is generally considered one of the better Bruce Lee ‘clone’ movies. Stephen Chow’s Fist of Fury 1991 takes a very different, comedy-orientated look at the title, while Donnie Yen’s Fist Of Fury TV series for ATV proved hugely popular in the mid 1990s, even spawning a prequel, Fist of Fury: Sworn Revenge.

The original 1972 film has earned generations of fans to this day and continues inspiring and influencing people from all walks of life in every corner of the world. Fist Of Fury is a timeless classic that will forever be remembered as Bruce Lee’s greatest work.
Mike Fury 1/28/2009 - top

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 1/28/2009 Mike Fury

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