Watched the media preview of this latest Donnie Yen (甄子丹)’s action movie, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen 《精武风云: 陈真》last week, thanks to the folks at Shaw.
From beginning till end, it was minute after minute of pulsating non-stop action sequences and fighting scenes.
If you are a fan of Donnie Yen, you will grow to love him ever more after watching him take on multiple roles in this movie – as the legendary patriotic fighter, Chen Zhen, made famous by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury; as a Casanova-spy-type, masquerading as a French-Chinese playboy businessman; and as an anonymous masked warrior.
The movie gets a little draggy in the middle, but overall, the pacing was still alright, compensated by the action scenes. Some parts of the fighting scenes were a tad too exaggerated for my liking, but it should go well with more mainstream audience.
One limitation of having a storyline following historical time line is that you cannot bend history. China was mostly at the losing end during WWII. Although the Japanese never managed to fully invade China due to the country’s sheer size and population, China was still badly battered and bruised as a nation during the war period.
One Chen Zhen cannot change the course of history. Nonetheless, a fictional character like this is a surefire way to capitalise on the resurgence of Chinese pride in recent years, thanks to the rise of China as a global economic and political powerhouse.
This movie should do well at the Chinese box-office markets around the world (I doubt the Japanese would appreciate the movie though).
The movie opens in Singapore cinema from 23 Sep (this Thurs). If you are an action movie or Donnie Yen fanatic, mark your calendar! 🙂
More about the Movie:
While China is traumatized by military cliques during the World War era in the 1020s, Shanghai is the cynosure of all eyes. People see it as both Hell’s Kitchen and Heaven’s Gate/ One of the city’s most memorable heroes has to be Chen Zhen, who single-handedly avenges his mentor’s death by killing all the Japanese at a dojo in Hongkou, only to be showered with bullets while making his legendary flying kick. Vanished from the public eye ever since, he has been taken dead though his body is never found.
Seven years later, a wealthy entrepreneur called Koo returns from abroad and makes a grand entrance on the Shanghai social scene by befriending the notorious mafia boss of the city. This mysterious man is none other than Chen Zhen in disguise who dwells in a world of nefarious means in order to infiltrate the criminal empire. He soon discovers a clandestine collusion between the mafia and the Japanese.
Disguised as a caped crusader at night, Chen sets out to dismantle with his martial arts skill the evil collusion that plaques the country. One of his foremost missions is to ferret out the assassination list prepared by the Japanese…
About the Director
Most renowned internationally for his multiple record smasher Infernal Affairs which spawned an equally successful prequel and sequel, Andrew Lau started his career as a cinematographer (As Tears Goes By, Chung King Express). He then made his name as a maverick director in works like the Young and Dangerous franchise and Stormriders. The Infernal Affairs trilogy not only put him on the map but won him Best Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards. His recent film Initial D was a box office colossus across Asia and was presented in the Official Selections at Venice Film Festival. Lau has recently helmed the Korean romantic noir Daisy and completed his Hollywood debut The Flock, starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes.
About the Producer
Renowned for the high octane gunplay and powerful characterization in his films, Gordon Chan is lauded as the Master of Hong Kong Action Thrillers. His dazzling portfolio includes box-office hits like Thunderbolt and The Medallion, both starring Jackie Chan; King of Beggars, starring Stephen Chow; and the multi-award winning Beast Cop. He is also the helmer of Fist of Legend, which shot Jet Li to international stardom for playing the role of Chen Zhen. Fifteen years after that film, Gordon Chan revisited the world of Chen Zhen by joining forces with director Andrew Lau and action heavyweight Donnie Yen. Together they formed an iron triangle that will guarantee to bring martial arts movies to a new height…
About the Cast
A prominent martial arts superstar in Hong Kong, he debuted in Hollywood with Highlander End Game and starred in Guillermo del Toro’s Blade 2, for which he was also in charge of action choreography. Yen’s enthralling performance in Zhang Yimou’s Hero has earned him accolades as a bona fide actor beyond his martial arts skills. His recent starring roles include Seven Swords, SPL, An Empress and the Warriors, Painted Skin and Ip Man, who won him Best Actor at the 16th Beijing Student Film Festival.
Donnie Yen as Chen Zhen – Chen Zhen is an iconic culture hero in Hong Kong film industry, spawning numerous feature films and television series over the years. Such world acclaimed martial arts legends as Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Donnie Yen have all played this fictional kung-fu hero before. Donnie Yen first played the character Chen Zhen in a television series in 1995 that mesmerized audiences across Asia, including China, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. In Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, Ten reprises this role in a completely brand new take on the urban legend.
One of the most prolific actresses in Hong Kong, she holds a record of making 45 films in just 6 years and won Best Supporting Actress at the 18th Hong Kong Academy Awards and the 35th Golden Horse Awards for the film Portland Street Blues and garnered the Best Actress title in 2005 at 42nd Golden Horse Awards for her performance in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Three Times. Shi Qi has been adored by both commercial and art house filmmakers, her latest romantic comedy If You Are The One being the highest grossing comedy of all time in China. She starred in the international smash hit Transporter produced by Luc Besson in 2002 and Hollywood production New York, I Love You. She also served as a jury member at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008.
Best known internationally for his performances in Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs trilogy and his frequent appearances in Johnnie To’s films, Anthony Wong is one of Hong Kong’s most awarded actors, having won two Best Actor Awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his performances in The Untold Story and Beast Cops. In 2007, he forayed into Hollywood starring opposite Edward Norton and Naomi Watt in The Painted Veil, followed by the blockbuster The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. He was last seen in French co-production Vengeance, an official selection of Cannes Film Festival of 2009.
Born in Qingdao, China and graduated at the Beijing Film Academy, Huang Bo is one of the hottest actors in China. After starring in Ning Hao’s sleeper Crazy Stone and its follow-up Crazy Racer, he has become a household name in China for his unique comedic performances. He has subsequently, starred in a string of slapstick comedies like Just Another Pandora’s Box. In 2009m he made foray into art house cinema by starring in the critically acclaimed Cow, which won him Best Actor at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards. He will next be seen in Ning Hao’s new film, No Man’s Land.
Location and Behind-the-scene
Everybody comes to Casablanca…
Casablanca is an upscale cabaret nightclub in Shanghai during the 1920s, where a mishmash of clientele hobnobs every night till the sun comes up: Chinese entrepreneurs, British Officials, Japanese rogues, and spies who desperately seek to overthrow the growing power of the Japanese in China. Although the owner of Casablanca, Mr To professes to be neutral in all matters, he inevitably has to choose between the Chinese people and the Empire of the Sun.
Everybody comes to Casablanca for a reason, including the mustachioed entrepreneur returned from overseas and the sultry songbird Kiki, who brings down the house with her Japanese songs. The entrepreneur is none other than Chen Zhen in disguise, who dwells in a world of nefarious mean in order to infiltrate the criminal empire but finds himself inextricably enamored with Kiki.
Chinese on Western Front in WWI…
The film opens with a lesser known history of the First World War: Chinese men on the Western Front. Between 1914 and 1918 France and the Great Britain use their diplomatic influence reo recruit soldiers from the Third World, China being one of them. Thousands of Chinese laborers are conscripted and transported to Europe to help the Allied war effort, most of whom end up dead in the line of fire. Chen Zhen is one of the few revered survivors who make it back to China in one piece.
Deprived of the wages they were promised, these Chinese soldiers develop close bond akin to brotherhood in the field. When their bullets eventually run out, Chen Zhen employs his martial arts to conquer the battlefield, saving his compatriots’ lives with his superheroic feat.
Dojo in Little Tokyo
In the 1920s, Japan swiftly grows into the most powerful foreign national group in Shanghai, accounting for some 80% of all expatriates there. Much of the Hongkou area in Northern Shanghai has become an unofficial Japanese settlement – hence the nickname ‘Little Tokyo” – where law and order are primarily taken over by the Japanese Consular Police.
Dojo, or training schools where Japanese nationals practice martial arts like judo or karate, become an icon of Japanese imperialism in the heart of Hongkou. Legend has it that Chen Zhen once courageously marches into a Hongkou dojo alone and singlehandedly defeat all Japanese combatants there.
In 1932, Hongkou becomes the infamous location of Shanghai Incident, when Japanese troops invade Shanghai, harbingering the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937.
Official Website: www.mediaasia.com/legendofthefist
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