Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen (HK 2010)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/13/16
Director: Andrew Lau
Action Director: Donnie Yen
Cast: Donnie Yen, Shu Qi, Anthony Wong, cameo by Yasuaki Kurata

Another boring and emotionally flat Andrew Lau spectacle, and a very loose reimagining of Bruce Lee's "Fist Of Fury" (1972). Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) is a seemingly super-human Chinese soldier who goes overseas to fight in France during World War I. Presumed dead, he returns to Shanghai in 1925 in disguise and befriends shady nightclub owner Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong) as part of an elaborate plan to unite the Chinese people against their Japanese oppressors. At night, he dons a Kato-like costume and becomes a vigilante hero known as "The Masked Warrior," but he's only featured in a couple of scenes before the filmmakers discard the whole superhero angle. It's as if director Andrew Lau got halfway through the film and then decided he wanted to do something completely different, but he didn't want to get rid of the footage he already had. After suffering unbearable losses to the Japanese and being beaten into a coma, Chen Zhen miraculously recovers and has a one-on-one showdown against a vicious Japanese colonel.

Like nearly all of Andrew Lau's big budget adventure films, "Legend Of The Fist" is a dull and sluggish production that suffers from a weak script, wooden performances, and a lack of human drama. The art direction is good and the extravagant sets are quite beautiful, but like many Asian films, the CGI visual effects are embarrassingly awful. The action scenes are few and far between, and not enough to save the film from tedium. That said, Donnie Yen's action direction is very entertaining and it's always fun to see him punching and kicking his way through countless bad guys. Unfortunately, some of his work is marred by gratuitous wire work, poor framing, and choppy editing. While his action persona and physical intensity are undisputed, Donnie lacks the charisma and range to carry the dramatic weight of the film. However, this is also typical of Lau's directing style. Anthony Wong delivers a wonderfully rich and thoughtful performance as a supporting character, which adds a nice sense of warmth and professionalism to the production. Veteran fighter Yasuaki Kurata shows up for a tiny cameo, but it's so pointless and disappointing that it's not even worth mentioning. Ultimately, it's Shu Qi who succeeds in stealing the show as a seductively charming and perpetually drunk cabaret singer who also leads a double life. Even though there's no romantic chemistry between her and Yen, the screen literally lights up and comes alive whenever she casts a glance or flashes a smile. Apart from a handful of eye candy and some flashy fight scenes, "Legend Of The Fist" is a solidly mediocre time waster that will likely only appeal to fans of its cast.