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Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (精武風雲:陳真) (2010)

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (精武風雲:陳真) (2010) is Andrew Lau's latest action epic movie that thrives primarily on Chinese nationalism during the era of the Japanese's invasion in Shanghai, China.

Chinese language movies that demonstrated nationalist sentiment seems to be dominating the industry these 2-3 years. Furthermore, it seems that Donnie Yen stars in almost of them -- Ip Man (2008), Ip Man 2 (2010), and
Bodyguards and Assassins (十月圍城) (2009).

Donnie Yen also stars in a wuxia actioner in 2010 --
14 Blades (錦衣衛). Although not a nationalist movie, it's nonetheless an action movie that causes the audience to go gaga with his action choreography.

Legend of the Fist: The Return if Chen Zhen
is set in Shanghai, a city in China divided into different expatriate territories in the 1920s.

According to history, the British, Americans, French, and Germans stay as neutral as possible to avoid the Japanese. The ruthless and ambitious Japanese didn't hesitate to eliminate anyone, including foreigners who came in the way of their plan to conquer the disunited China, known in that era as Sick Men of East Asia
(東亞病夫).

Side note: This reminds me of an English-Chinese-Japanese movie -- Shanghai (2010). However, this movie is a fictional tale with less portrayal of nationalism compared to romanticism between a Chinese lady and an American man.

Let's come back to Legend of the Fist. A disguised Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) returns to Shanghai
after serving in World War I in France. He quickly befriended Mr Lau (Anthony Wong), Casablanca Nightclub's boss and smitten by Kiki (Shu Qi), the nightclub's famous singer. At the same time, he's a superhero donned in a black suit and mask who's doing his best to save those whose names appeared on the Japanese's assassination list.

I agree with this review from IMDb by moviexclusive: Chen Zhen's motivations for leading the resistance -- other than teaching the Japanese that "Chinese are not the sick men of Asia" -- aren't exactly clear. It's also tricky because the audience isn't led to feel the level of indignation as Chen Zhen is supposed to, the kind of indignation that made the Ip Man films so satisfying to watch at the end -- so the climax between Chen Zhen and an entire dojo of Japanese students and their master just doesn't turn out as emotionally rewarding as one would expect it to.

Chen Zhen sees Donnie Yen at his most suave and charismatic (even looking convincingly like he can play a piano). He's also a much better actor now, and the dramatic scenes possess none of the awkwardness that used to dwarf his earlier films. Perhaps most importantly, the exhilarating action sequences show that he has lost none of his mettle as the best martial arts star in Chinese cinema right now. For a younger generation who may not have seen Bruce Lee and his nanchucks in the original "Fist of Legend", Donnie Yen's take on Chen Zhen is iconic enough to leave a lasting impression.

In a nutshell, I'd say, if you're a fan of Donnie Yen, you shouldn't miss this movie. :)

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