The fighting fist of fury fulfilled in frenzied and funny fascination, for fame and freedom!
That nonsensical title aside, I am a person that loves him some martial arts movies. It’s something that remained with me since my childhood, where I watched with quite a bit of enthusiasm Bruce Lee mowing his way through many henchmen in films like “Fists of Fury” and the unforgettable camp classic “Enter the Dragon”. Soon enough Mr. Lee’s exhibitions weren’t enough so I expanded over to Jackie Chan and later Jet Li, which brings us to this film.
As is the case with most movies I’ve written about so far, I’ve not seen “The Legend” before. But I have known of it and was very much looking forward to watching the film because it does enjoy a reputation of a modern Hong Kong classic, and Jet Li is always a treat to watch. He might not be an able comedian like the great Jackie Chan or have the acting prowess of Donnie Yen, but he is probably the most skilled martial artists since Bruce Lee himself. And in this movie he is in his creative and physical prime, which usually makes even the most useless of movies an enjoyable watch.
Now I am not trying to say that “The Legend” is a bad film, far from it. It’s a very light martial arts comedy with some truly spectacular fight choreography, courtesy of the director Corey Yuen, who himself is a renown Hong Kong martial arts choreographer. But it doesn’t really go anywhere meaningful. Where in ‘Fist of Legend”, personally my favorite Jet Li film, you’d come for the fights and stay for the story, here you come for the fights and that’s why you stay. And honestly there’s nothing wrong with this. But the story itself is of sound construct however, and does provide some superficial pleasures.
What falls flat on its face for me is the romantic plot at the core of the story. It’s very innocent and naïve in a way which makes it all too familiar and the obstacles this romance faces are very contrived and, quite frankly, often a bit stupid. The humor is hit and miss precisely because it’s forced through similar contrivances, but there are a few gags that made me chuckle so it can’t be all too bad. What can I say but repeat that Jet Li is no Jackie Chan.
What does work in the story is the revolutionary backdrop that frames it. The aspect of the Red Lotus Flower Society and its attempts to overthrow the Manchu Emperor is only really brought forward in the second half of the film, and finally gives the film a narrative push and the emotional hook it deserves.
Still despite these minor nuisances, and yes these are minor nuisances for a Hong Kong action extravaganza, the film is dynamic and the fights are as breathless and seemingly effortless as they should be. And it possess a "Looney-Tunes" quality that is unique even for a Hong Kong live-action film, or at least it was until the criminally underappreciated "Kung Fu Hustle" blew that door wide open. But I digress.
In this film Jet Li is at the top of his game and with that and some stunning fight choreography you get exactly what’s promised on the box, which is more than a fan of martial-arts cinema could ask for.
Original title: Fong Sai Yuk
Jet Li - Fong Sai Yuk
Josephine Siao - Miu Chui Fa
Michelle Reis - Tin Tin
Chen Song Yung - Tiger Lui
Original language: Cantonese
The Legend on IMDb