Fist from Shaolin (1993)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2009-02-10
Summary: Not bad for a copy...
Meant to cash in on the success of the Once Upon a Time in China series, Fist from Shaolin has Wong Kwan adopting the role of Wong Fei-hung for this tale of the mainland legend. Much like OUATIC 1, this movie see's Wong's family friend (Sharon Kwok) returning from overseas after a stint in the West. Wong and his students Kuan (Tam Chiu) and Bucktooth So (Gabriel Wong) run into an issue with a local General (Ji Chun-Hua) and his western investor after Wong finds them exploiting local peasants. Knowing that Wong could pose an issue to their expansion, Master Eleven (Ji) intentionally goads the western kickboxer into a challenge with Wong by deliberately mis-translating their conversation. Smitten with a homeless street performer, Bucktooth So also manages to stumble across a related plot to kidnap local girls and sell them into a prostitution ring. All of these plots revolve around the General, the area's Prefect and the westerner. Once they figure out the scope of the plan, Wong, Kuan and So must take on the corrupt officials and generals to stop the conspiracy before it goes any farther.

Even though it is clearly a derivative of the superior Jet Li and Tsui Hark product, Fist from Shaolin is an excellent martial arts film with exciting choreography and a strong (albeit oft tread) plot. Wong Kwan is quite good in the lead role, with above average martial arts skills and good acting. He deals out a fair amount of deserved pain, at one point even castrating a thug with a pair of shears. For the most part though he is controlled in his anger and fighting, preferring instead to end conflicts with words and soft, trapping kung fu. The real revelation here though is Tam Chiu. He has obviously trained for most his life and his kung fu is incredibly fast and fluid. All his fights are exciting with elaborate kicks and acrobatics to boot. Its rather surprising that his filmography consists of less than 10 films. The actor that plays Prefect Wu is also excellent, as is the westerner who unleashes a barrage of impressive kicks. The ever-present whimpering sidekick is played as well as could be expected by Gabriel Wong. Although Fist from Shaolin is blatant in its attempt to lump itself in with Jet Li (the entire first footage is from Li's Shaolin Temple), it is able to eventually set itself apart with excellent action and a good storyline.

Reviewer Score: 7