Z (1972)
Fist of Fury


Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011


Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 08/01/2006
Summary: We are NOT sick men!

One of only a handful of Hong Kong films seen by non-Hong Kong film fans, FIST OF FURY is generally regarded as the best Bruce Lee film, and therefore the best Kung fu film by default! I can see the appeal, but WAY OF THE DRAGON always seemed better and more three dimensional to me.

However, FIST OF FURY is a good film that achieves greatness sporadically. Certainly a quantum Leap forward from THE BIG BOSS, you can see some distinctly Bruce touches in the humour – for example when he goes undercover at the Japanese Dojo dressed as a TV repairman. Incidentally, for those that do not already know, the clunky glasses he wore in that scene were his own from before he was famous – Bruce Lee’s vision was actually quite poor without lenses.

As in BIG BOSS, this was directed by Lo Wei (when he could drag himself away from the horseracing on the radio), but the relationship between star and director was becoming a little “strained” and Bruce would direct himself for WAY OF THE DRAGON and Lo would eventually leave Golden Harvest and make the dire sequel NEW FIST OF FURY with some unknown guy (wonder what happened to him?).

Everyone knows the story of FIST OF FURY, so I won’t retread old ground. Suffice to say, the Japanese are the bad guys, and this laid the groundwork for many, many Jap-bashing films out of Hong Kong for years to come. The obvious playing to the gallery with the “Sick men of Asia” insult and the subsequent drubbing of the Japanese went down an absolute storm with the Chinese. And the Japanese? They loved it too. As the Americans would say, “go figure”…

I think this film falls down in a couple of places. The first is in the romantic scene between Bruce and Nora Miao. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one for “all action all of the time”, but I just don’t think the scene of them dreaming of the future and kissing in the graveyard works. I don’t know what it is, but it bores the hell out of me every time. Secondly, the students tend to bunch up and go everywhere together, which always strikes me as odd. Want to see someone hanging from a lamppost? Let’s ALL go together!

What can’t be faulted is Bruce Lee himself, his action scenes and his screen presence. The nunchaku scenes are of course the highlight, and this is without doubt the best use of the weapon I’ve seen in any film. The presence of arch-villain Bob Baker is also really exciting, as well as his final fight with Bruce.

Speaking of which, I have never seen the original Mandarin version of this film, but on the Cantonese version, Baker’s character is quite obviously voiced (in English) by Bruce Lee. How odd is that?

Although I’ll never be as enamoured of FIST OF FURY as most, I know a good film when I see it. It’s just that I prefer what came directly afterwards.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 09/04/2005
Summary: Maybe not THE classic, but a classic nevertheless

“Fist of Fury” succeeds on a number of levels, including some that its makers would never think of. Urban audiences in the United States loved it—loved anything with Bruce Lee, who they saw as the hardest of the hard men, the toughest of the tough guys, one who always extracted vengeance from his enemies and was loyal to his friends. Lee never backed down from authority—he broke rules when he had to and made his own rules when necessary. He was not in the least cool—he was red hot, a bomb just waiting to be detonated. They saw Lee through non-postmodern eyes. There was no ironic distancing from the character for the audience in the cavernous, crumbling grind houses in cities across the United States. The success of Hong Kong movies in the U. S. is unthinkable without Bruce Lee and this movie shows him at his manic, over the top, grimacing best.

Chen Zhen’s enemies are threefold: the Japanese themselves like Suzuki and Yoshida, who occupy China and are its real rulers; their Chinese collaborators, especially the oily Wu; and the inert mass of the Chinese people, afraid to confront the Japanese—because of their fear the Japanese rule them even more securely. The immediate cause of action is the suspicious death of Chen’s teacher and the founder of his school. Only the Japanese would benefit from his death but everyone is willing to pretend that he died of pneumonia, so the conflict is clearly demarked early on.

Another level in which “Fist of Fury” works is the conventional “You killed my sifu so I will kill you”. Hong Kong directors, writers and editors could create ninety minute movies like this in their sleep—and it seemed they occasionally did. Such films were easy to make and were popular—it was what the local audiences in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia wanted to see. But if it was just a charismatic star in a typical Golden Harvest production from the early 1970s, no one would wonder if it was an important movie or a classic.

One aspect that is well, if very broadly, drawn is the immorality of collaboration with the enemy. The translator Wu, while Chinese, has the logos, emblems and iconography of the “evil” Japanese as depicted not only in Hong Kong movies of the 1970s but many Hollywood movies from the World War II and post-War period. He is a small man in a Western suit and tie that, while it fits, also seems too large for him—the suit almost swallows him up. He wears large round glasses, travels with Chinese bodyguards and continually makes the point that he is the representative of the local unofficial Japanese enforcer, Suzuki. Wu is simpering, servile and obsequious, very pleased to serve his masters; he has no identity other than as their servant. His reaction to the strip tease show is another indication of this—Suzuki and Petroff, his new Russian thug, while appreciative of the show but restrained. Wu is excited, almost disturbed, saying that he “has never seen anything like this before”. He is set apart from the occupiers and their allies, less sophisticated than they; this, of course, is made excruciatingly clear immediately afterwards when Suzuki orders him to crawl like a dog when leaving. That Wu does so without demur is clearly referenced to Chen encountering the sign “No dogs or Chinese allowed” at the entrance to a park. When told by a Japanese man that he can get in if he acts like a dog, Chen responds with violence, both real and symbolic. After laying waste to a number of Japanese thugs, he throws the sign into the air and launches himself after it, smashing it to pieces with a kick.

The chief detective (played by director Lo Wei) and his minions encapsulate the difficulties inherent for citizens of an occupied country who are responsible for public order. While they are responsible for enforcing or adjudicating laws regarding common civil and criminal matters--including murder—there is no question that ultimately the occupier has state power. When the all powerful Japanese consul (the only person in Western dress other than the sycophant Wu) finally appears—there had been threats to summon him throughout the movie—we know the end is very near. The detectives’ symbol of authority seems to be a fedora, worn at all times. Otherwise they are dressed in the long robes with turned back cuffs that many of the other Chinese wear. This headgear may be symbolic of their partial absorption into the domain of the Japanese; it might also be a nod to the costumes of detectives in many U. S. movies. Whatever the reason, it is very distinctive.

The wonderful fight scenes show Lee at his very best. His combination of several martial arts with a dash of street fighting élan is enthralling. When the Jin Wu school is attacked the first time by their Japanese rivals it results in an inconclusive melee. When Chen goes alone into the Japanese dojo he defeats all of them including their master. Part of this fight is shot from above and to one side, an unusual and very effective camera angle for a martial arts movie of the time. Here Lee is a spinning and kicking machine—he land (or seems to land) almost lethal kicks on several opponents without the benefit constructive editing. Some of his moves are reminiscent of the fights in Hollywood western movies, especially the clenched fist to the face and others are close to unique at the time, dropping low to the ground and hitting his circling opponents in the ankles with his ever-present short hinged staff.

It is doubtful that those involved with “Fist of Fury” had any idea that they were making a film that would resonate throughout the world for decades to come, just as, for example, the artists and technicians working on “Casablanca” were aware that it would be a touchstone for critics and moviegoers for as long as movies are watched. But whatever their intention or design, Lee, Lo Wei and the rest created a masterpiece of the genre.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: chenjun
Date: 10/29/2003
Summary: Greatest of all time?

THE greatest Bruce Lee movie, which due to his short career in martial arts films isn't saying too much. But this classic showcases Lee Siu Lung's acting talent, gives the first hint of his directorial prowess, and shows the invincibility of Lee Siu Lung's legend as no other film could.

Lee Siu Lung is regarded by some as the best martial arts movie actor. Some of those people consider Jing Mo Mun his best movie. So, it is afe to say that many regard Jing Mo Mun as the greatest gung fu movie ever.

For me though, this ties with Bai Ga Jai (Prodigal Son) as the best.


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 11/04/2002
Summary: Bruce Lee not at his best

Common rumor: it's the greatest Chinese classic ever made

Reality: it's not

:)

It's hard to go into watching the movie without the mindsetting of it being the biggest classic from the most famous kung fu star. But if you think this way, you might be disappointed in the movie.

Now, the nice thing about Bruce Lee is that you can smell the fury in his presence, and you can feel the rage in his eyes. However, the movie is pretty slowly paced, and you shouldn't expect choreography like the venoms or Liu Chia Liang.

Probably the best of '72, but not the best of all time.

[7/10]


Reviewed by: Kyashan
Date: 06/06/2002
Summary: Goood

This movie is very beautiful, like all Bruce Lee's movies but interesting.
If you like martial arts movies, you must see it.


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/08/2002
Summary: Pretty good

I agree with what Inner Strength says, but i liked this more than him. Ok not much of a plot, but all the fight scenes and the desire/passion that Bruce lee shows for revenge makes this a enjoyable viewing.

7/10


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Nothing special, but inspired many

The movie all in all, is not great, not at all in fact. It did however inspire COUNTLESS movies all over the world, who have 'copied' it. One such movie is Fist Of Legend, which is much better at bringing the story to life.

The fight scenes were not very good, and the acting pretty bad. Although Raymond Chow produced it, it's not very well put together in my opinion, although Lo Wei did a good job in directing I think.

Rating (out of 5): 2

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/14/2001
Summary: Landmark that still holds some interest after 30 years

FIST OF FURY (1972) - First saw this years ago, dubbed and full frame, and didn't like it much. The story seemed extremely and naively anti-Japanese, and not all that interesting. I guess I'm better prepared to appreciate it now, and having the nice Hong Kong Legends Cantonese/Anamorphic disc helps too. The story is still very anti-Japanese, though not quite as offensively so as I remembered (or maybe I'm just more used to it now). It's still not the world's best story either, but not bad. Bruce Lee plays a certifiable madman (really, nobody who spends the entire movie quivering with rage and making those contorted faces & noises can be classed as sane) who returns to Shanghai when he learns of the death of his Sifu. It is never specified exactly where he was before this. In Shanghai he sees how the Chinese are being humiliated by the occupying Japanese forces, and gets mad. Or more mad, since he was already quite mad after his sifu died... or perhaps it was just some speck of dust on his clothing. Despite his sifu's wishes that his students only use their kung fu to strengthen body and mind, and never fight, Bruce decides to teach the Japanese a lesson, and quite impressively takes down their entire dojo in a scene that has become an all time classic. This sets in chain a sequence of events which really do confirm the wisdom of his sifu's words, though it may only be the viewer who notices this.

What makes the film such a classic is not the story though, or even Bruce's quivering rage of a performance... it's the fight scenes. Comparing the fights here to those in THE BIG BOSS it is obvious just how much of an impact Bruce's vision did have on HK martial arts movies. Here he got to develop the fight scenes his own way, and the difference is dramatic... much more convincing and physically impressive than anything that had been done to that point (to the best of my knowledge). One of the interviews on the DVD is with the co-choreographer Bruce employed, where he talks about the ideas that Bruce had and how he changed the approach to filming martial arts scenes forever. FIST OF FURY perhaps contains the first great martial arts fight scenes ever commited to film as a result of his ideas. Definitely a landmark film, though outside the fight scenes it doesn't score nearly as highly.


Reviewed by: tygrdx
Date: 03/15/2000
Summary: Bruce Lee's Greatest Dramatic Performance

"Enter the Dragon" may have the better Production, and "Way of the Dragon" may have had the most realistic fight sequences, but this movie is Bruce Lee's Best Dramatic Performance. The Plot and Acting were the best of Hong Kong Cinema at the time. In Hong Kong THIS is considered Bruce Lee's Greatest movie. A Great Tale of Revenge, Romance, Racism, and Tragedy. Look for several cameo's of Jackie Chan as a Student and as a Stunt Double of the Japanese Boss.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Thought by some to be the greatest of all Bruce Lee films.Set in Shanghai of 1908, a Japanese-led gang murders Lee's kung fu master and terrorizes his former school. Lee brings swift and terrible justice to the wrongdoers but sacrifices his life to save his friends.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]