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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Big Bad: General Fujita (played by former kickboxing champion Billy Chow).
- 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 in surprise.
- 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's threat.
- The Determinator: Chen and General Fujita both exhibit this trait 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 working 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 father 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.
- Even Evil Has Standards: There's little in the movie to suggest that Akutegawa was a nice guy or even Jerk with a Heart of Gold but as soon as he found out he only won against Master Huo because Fujita had Huo poisoned, he was furious to learn that and accused 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: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Because of that, it's next to impossible to root against Fujita in that one instance as he finally puts a bullet in the traitor's head.
- 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 unphased by all of Ting-An's blows and it takes several attempts before Chen Zen 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.
- 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.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: Suggested as the way Huo was poisoned, but Chen Zhen rejected 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 X of Y