Born in Singapore, Chen is perhaps best known as the ruthless villain in most of director Chang Cheh's oeuvre, always persecuting our beloved protagonists. Chang first offered him a screen debut in Return of the One Armed Swordsman, and he soon rose among a new generation of Shaw action stars, starring in such blockbusters as The Invincible Fist, Have Sword, Will Travel and The Heroic Ones. Chen caught the eye of producer-director Wu Szu-yuan and was cast in the lead of The Bloody Fists. It was a rare turn for Chen to be a protagonist - an anonymous, Clint Eastwood-style hero, and genre buffs hailed it as a cult classic.
Chen also starred in Sammo Hung's The Iron Fisted Monk, The Beast, Aces Go Places, and John Woo's Plane Jane to the Rescue.