Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zhen starts off smack in the middle of battle during the first World War, with Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) trying to rally his fellow countrymen in the face of a massive German attack. The Chinese are fighting alongside the Allies, and the Germans are in control, when Chen Zhen takes matters into his own hands and mounts a legendary martial arts aerial attack on a gun stronghold, thereby starting the movie off with a really strong action sequence that sets up the rest of the movie.
Upon returning to mainland China, Chen Zhen uses a dead friend’s identity and joins the rebellion that is focused squarely on stopping the Japanese threat to the mainland. The Japanese are the main threat of the movie, and when Zhen and the rebellion discover a plot by the Japanese to assassinate one of the Chinese warlords, they decide to fight back. Chen Zhen hides behind his mask to become a local hero as he fights the threat of the Japanese, by vowing to save those who are put on a “hit list” by the Japanese, as they attempt to kill off those in Shanghai who they feel are anti-Japan. It becomes a list that Chen Zhen vows to protect, as the fight for China takes hold.
Intricately weaved into the movie is a love story as well, as Chen Zhen falls for nightclub singer Kiki (Shu Qi). Chen Zhen spends a good deal of time at the nightclub as his friend is the owner (and local mafia boss), but Kiki, who is the star attraction, catches Chen Zhen’s eye, and he falls madly for her. The problem is that this love story feels like, and looks like, it was just an after thought. It is like someone thought the movie had to have a love story, and so they just tacked one in. It kind of breaks up the movie in my opinion, and in the end, it added little to the movie.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is a strange little movie that has some amazing action sequences. The war setting was kind of new and was great to watch. Donnie Yen is truly an amazing martial arts actor, and his calmness in the middle of the frenzy of action is very cool. The movie itself leaves a lot to be desired, but it is a fun little movie. It was just hard to get into the plot and story, and the action just doesn’t save this from being mediocre. I also have to add that many of the Chinese martial arts movies have a very strong propaganda feel, and this is no exception, with the anti-Japanese, pro-China nationalism message pounding throughout the movie, which is fine (I am sure our action movies are pretty pro-US) but this one seems a little heavy handed compared to even the Ip Man movies. It was so apparent that I had to mention it, as it does seem to invade every aspect of this movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering the target audience here is obviously the Chinese.
Overall Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen was a nicely done martial arts movie, with a few twists on the genre, but the story and stop and go pace were a bit much. I liked the movie, but I didn’t “like like” the movie, if you know what I mean.
Features: 4/10 – The extras are pretty straight forward and pretty sparse for a big budget Blu-ray release, but this is a martial arts movie.
- Behind The Scenes – There are several behind the scenes features here, including a few that highlight the World War I set, and the nightclub scenes. There are also a few scenes that breakdown several of the fight sequences and their locations. Overall there are about 40 minutes of behind the scenes features included here.
- Cast & Crew Interviews – There are several interviews here with cast and crew that go into detail about the movie. We get interviews with Donnie Yen and Andrew Lau, the Director, as well as others. The interviews are short and to the point.
- English Language Track – It is nice that the presentation is given in an English language track, as some people (my wife included) absolutely hate reading when they watch movies.
Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover for the movie is actually very stylized. The almost black and white shot with a splash of color (blood) is a very powerful image for this movie. Donnie Yen always seems to look so serious on his covers, and this one is no exception. The menu features background scenes from the movie playing over another stylized image of Shanghai, which is decent, but not as nice as the cover.
Audio & Video: 8/10
The widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer is very solid, with a great amount of color and detail up front. The detail is what caught my eye, as some of the imported martial arts movies seem to have a level of grain that is totally lacking here. This is a brilliant period movie that looks sharp and is given a nice color effect for added impact. The audio is a bit tougher to judge, as any time that there are overdubs, the levels can be off. Presented in Mandarin and English, both seemed pretty well done. The effects of the war sequences prove that this is a well mixed audio track, with bass and Surround Sound well utilized throughout.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is a strange little movie that takes over where the television show featuring Donnie Yen left off, with this being a kind of extension to the Legend of the Fist that was made popular by martial arts icon Bruce Lee. The presentation is decent, and Donnie Yen really does a great job of playing an action hero, but there is just something that seems slightly off here. It could be the fact that this seems like an attempt to keep a franchise going that might have been left alone, or it could be the in-your-face anti-Japanese sentiment here that seems to almost go overboard, but the movie just seems a bit shallow. The presentation is spot on, and seeing a martial arts/war movie is kind of unique when presented in this manner, but this one just didn’t really hit home with me.
Overall Score 6/10