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Fist of Legend (Chinese: 精武英雄; pinyin: Jīng Wǔ Yīngxióng; literally "Hero of Jingwu") is a 1994 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Gordon Chan, starring Jet Li, and with fight scenes choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping. It is a remake of the 1972 Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury.

Set in Shanghai International Settlement in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War as the city is occupied by Japanese forces, Chen Zhen (Li) is a student of Jingwu School of martial arts studying abroad in Japan at the start of the film. When he gets devastating news that the master of the school, Huo Yuanjia, has been killed back at home in a match with a Japanese martial artist, he heads back to Shanghai. Seeking out and combating the martial artist that defeated Yuanjia himself, he determines that the the man could never have beaten Yuanjia on fair terms, and that therefore foul play must be at work. Sure enough, digging up Yuanjia's body, it is discovered that he was poisoned before the fight. But why? And by who? Before Zhen can find out, however, the fighter that defeated Yuanjia turns up murdered, and he must contend with the authorities who suspect that he did it. He also must contend with Jingwu School itself, which is none too pleased when it discovers Zhen has fallen in love with a Japanese woman.

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The film, thankfully, tones the rather virulent anti-Japanese sentiment that was present in the original film down a bit. Whereas the conflict between China and Japan is still a theme, it's portrayed in a less-cartoonish, one-sided light; and there are several noble Japanese characters.

See also the movie Fearless, a sort of loose Spiritual Successor with its' own continuity, where Li plays the master Huo Yianjia himself note 


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This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: Akutegawa is a sore loser, but when he learns Master Huo was poisoned before their fight, he's sorely pissed about the dishonor.
    • Fumio Funakochi apologises for the violence and racism of his students attacking Chen Zhen at the start of the movie, and expresses sympathy for the death of his master. When they have their battle later, both show respect to one another and it is Fumio who stops their fight to the death out of respect even though he has Chen in a death grip, and Chen himself thought that he lost the fight.
    • Really, other than General Fujita and the traitorous student, almost every single antagonist in the movie is an Anti-Villain one way or the other. Most of them are Unwitting Pawns of the former and even the most bigoted and racist characters on either side sincerely believe that the other is guilty of murder because of a Frame-Up, or in the case of the cook who poisoned Master Huo or the Japanese ambassador were manipulated or forced into the murder plot.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
    • General Fujita. His qualifications for leading the army apparently consist of shooting people and blocking attacks with his face.
    • As you might expect, the best martial artists at Jingwu get the most respect. However, Ting-An is the actual headmaster and is inferior to Chen Zhen. There's some difficulty between them when the students start favoring Chen Zhen's ability above Ting-An's authority.
  • Authority in Name Only: The Japanese military ignores the authority of the representative of their civilian government until Fujita's death.
  • Badass Decay: In-Universe, Jingwu School is viewed as a laughingstock after Huo Yuanjia's death. Its reputation rises after Chen Zhen defeats Akutegawa.
    • Ting-An suffers this while still fresh off a Heroic BSoD, slipping-up during practice drills.
  • Big Bad: General Fujita (played by former kickboxing champion Billy Chow).
  • Bowdlerise: The English-dubbed Miramax version:
    • When Mitsuko asks Chen if he hates the Japanese, he reassures her that he doesn't (originally he said "I don't know").
    • When Akutegawa argues with Fujitawa over the murder of Huo and the meaning of the Samurai spirit, Fujitas' Jerk Justifications are different—in English, he's a sociopath who argues it's about Might Makes Right and winning at all costs; in the original, he's a fanatic who believes in absolute devotion to the Emperor even if it means going down in history as a criminal.
    • When Chen and Fumio debate about martial arts, Fumio agrees that the purpose of martials arts is to defeat the opponent. In the original, Fumio disagreed, stating that guns work better while martial arts are for personal development.
    • The "Sick Men of Asia" sign is translated as "Jingwu is closed"
    • The ending: Chen says he'll be with Mitsuko, whereas in the original, he's going to a warzone.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • General Fujita is one of the best fighters in the film, but he isn't above shooting people in cold blood or having opponents poisoned to win at all costs in spite of his own great strength and skill.
    • Fumio uses some cagey tactics in his duel with Chen Zhen, stalling several times and then suddenly attacking all-out to put the Chinese fighter on his heels. Afterwards, when Chen and Fumio have a debate on martial arts, the latter states the best way to win a fight is to use guns, and argues that the true goal of martial arts is personal and spiritual development.
    • Chen Zhen ruffles some feathers when he introduces elements of Japanese martial arts to the Chinese martial arts school on the grounds of it working, and he also uses Western boxing without naming it. [[note]]A homage to Bruce Lee, who played the character in the original and did the same thing. While far less underhanded and ruthless about it than someone like General Fujita, he adheres to the philosophy that in a fight, you should do what it takes to win. In the final battle, when Fujita pulls out a sword, Chen counters by pulling out his belt.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Chen Zhen vs. Akutegawa. This actually has plot relevance, since Chen realizes that if he can defeat Akutegawa so effortlessly, his master's loss could only be explained by some sort of sabotage.
    • General Fujita beats Ting-An to a pulp without any of Ting's blows having any effect, establishing Fujita as a threat. This is while Fujita is standing completely still with one hand occupied by holding up a sign.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Chinese and Japanese are expressly racist towards each other (barring a few exceptions).
    • Even Chen is not immune to this: When Mitsuko asks if he hates the Japanese, he responds "I don't know" (in the English dub, he tells her that he doesn't).
  • The Determinator: Chen and General Fujita both exhibit this during the final duel. Both take a huge amount of punishment and both look disbelievingly when their opponent gets up yet again to continue the fight.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: At first, Chen is seeking revenge against Akutegawa for killing his master, but the latter is revealed to be an Unwitting Pawn for General Fujita, who kills him soon after.
  • Dramatic Dislocation: Twice. First, when Zhen challenges Akutegawa (foot), and when Zhen fights Fujita (shoulder). Both times, the dislocation is self-repaired.
  • Duels Decide Everything: Chen investigates the death of his master by dueling Akutegawa. Chen earns the respect of his girlfriend's uncle by dueling him. General Fujita challenges Ting-An to a duel for ownership of Jingwu, and Chen Zhen ultimately ends the Japanese threat to Jingwu by dueling Fujita.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Chen Zhen's first scene has him kick the asses of a bunch of karate students, establishing his martial skill and cultural assertiveness.
  • Everyone Has Standards: As soon as Akutegawa finds out Fujita sabotaged his match against Master Huo by poisoning the latter, he's furious and accuses Fujita of being dishonorable, only to get killed by Fujita in return as soon as he laid hands on him.
  • Eye Scream: A mild example in that one of the first attacks that actually affects Fujita is when Chen Zhen brushes Fujita's eye with the back of his fingertips. Fujita has difficulty seeing out of it for the remainder of the fight.
  • Four-Star Badass: "Killing Machine" Fujita is the leader of the Japanese forces in China as well as the strongest Japanese martial artist in the country.
  • Fox News Liberal: The only sympathetic member of the Japanese government spends a lot of his time criticizing Japan's occupation of China.
  • Frame-Up: Fujita frames Chen for Akutegawa's murder, but once the case makes it to court, the frame job looks pathetically weak. Among other things, one of the false witnesses provided claims that he saw Chen stab Akutegawa when the man died of a broken spine.
  • Groin Attack: Chen delivers an Offhand Backhand to an enemy's crotch. That whole fight sequence has plenty of groin attacks, mostly administered to students foolhardy enough to try to deliver a flying kick to Chen's head.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Chen Zhen's reputation is ruined after his relationship with the Japanese Mitsuko is exposed.
  • Heroic BSoD: After losing to Chen, Ting-An gives up the title of headmaster, hides away in a brothel and develops an opium addiction (the latter is shown in the Taiwanese version).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted! Chen offers his life for killing Fujita (whose death would've been used by Japan as a pretext for war). Instead, the Japanese ambassador helps Chen fake his death and escape Shanghai.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Fumio Funakochi is a fictional character, but he is depicted as senior member of the real-life Black Dragon Society who is unusually tolerant and respectful of Chinese people, particularly Chen Zhen, and apologises for the racism and bigotry of his students. The actual Black Dragon Society was a hardline ultranationalist paramilitary organization involved in crime, espionage and murder, and had several high-ranking members in the Japanese government who were the prime movers of Japans' aggressive foreign policy. Funokochi should really be the most racist and bigoted character in the movie, and worst still, had he been a real person, might even have been involved in masterminding the invasion of Shanghai itself! [[note]]The film touches on this by having Funokochi argue that the Black Dragon has become corrupt and lost its' way, but in reality they were always involved in political extremism and pan-Asianism. Funokochi himself is likely based on its' founder Ryōhei Uchida, who was also a famous martial arts master.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Ting-An's girlfriend is a high-class hooker, so he feels the need to keep their relationship a secret. When Ting-An goes through a Heroic BSoD, he holes up with her and she eventually outs their relationship to the school in order to get him the help he needs to snap out of it. She then takes up residence at Jingwu, happily leaving her pretty dresses and high class trappings behind.
  • Improvised Weapon: Belt vs. Katana. It seems like it should be a complete mismatch, and it is. Just not the way you would expect.
  • Incoming Ham: See the English dub of this film for the single most overstated instance of the exclamation "Bullshit!" in the history of film.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The conflict between Chinese and Japanese cultures is the central theme, but in the first scene, a Japanese student mistakes Chen Zhen for Japanese. Both villainous Japanese martial artists are played by Chinese actors.
  • Kangaroo Court: Chen's trial for murdering Akutegawa is comically one-sided, as Chinese witnesses aren't allowed and even though the Japanese witnesses were offering Blatant Lies and even doing that poorly, the case was still somehow going against Chen until Mitsuko testified on his behalf.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Near the end, General Fujita brings out the Jingwu student who helped to poison Master Huo. Considering that Jingwu student's accomplice, the Jingwu school's cook, actually had more sympathetic reasons for agreeing to poison Master Huo (his son was being held captive), the traitorous Jingwu student especially came off as The Quisling and a Dirty Coward, considering he helped poison Master Huo and eventually killed the more sympathetic cook to silence him. It's next to impossible to root against Fujita in that one instance as he finally puts a bullet in the traitor's head.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: The Big Bad General Fujita gets a scene showing him training by hammering nails into boards with his bare palms, smashing slabs of rock, and letting a team of students break thick wooden rods over his body, to establish his overwhelming power and resilience in combat.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the original Fist of Fury, the conflict between the Chinese and Japanese is presented as less black-and-white and there are sympathetic characters on both sides (although the Japanese military are definitely the villains). Chen Zhen is also far less bloodthirsty and bent on revenge in this movie than in the previous and gets a happier ending, and the lighting and sets of each film are on opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty.
  • Made of Iron: General Fuijita's main strength is his ability to shrug off blows. Only Chen manages to crack him.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: In the final fight, as Fujita's losing, he pulls a katana and gets his ass handed to him even worse before Chen kills him with his own sword.
  • No-Sell: General Fujita is completely unfazed by all of Ting-An's blows and it takes several attempts before Chen Zhen lands a blow that actually hurts him.
  • Offhand Backhand: Possibly one of the most brutal examples of all time, when Zhen goes for the no-look crotch grab and throws his attacker by his man-region.
  • Omniglot: In the original dub, Chen speaks at least three languages: Cantonese, Japanese and English.
  • One-Hit Kill: The very first scene. Zhen gets attacked by a big-talking Japanese martial arts student. He goes down like a limp noodle with a single blow.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Japanese ambassador disapproves of the actions of the Japanese Army and General Fujita. After Fujita is killed, the ambassador uses his newfound authority to prevent more bloodshed.
  • The Resenter: Ting-An becomes jealous of Chen after the latter defeats Akutegawa, gaining popularity among Jingwu's students and Shanghai's populace. This culminates in Ting-An challenging Chen for the title of headmaster.
  • Serious Business: Fujita has Huo poisoned because he can't stand the notion of a Chinese dojo being more respected than a Japanese one. When Chen Zhen proves that the fight was rigged, he then frames Chen Zhen for murder.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Suggested as the way Huo was poisoned, but Chen Zhen rejects it — everyone at Jingwu ate from a common pot, so if the food was poisoned, why had only one man fallen ill from poison? The poison was in Huo's medicine.
  • The Unfettered: Fujita lectures that true bushido is to ignore morals in service to the emperor, even if it means being viewed by history as a villain.
  • The X of Y: Fist of Legend, naturally

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