Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2012-03-26
Summary: Be careful what you wish for
Co-productions between Hong Kong filmmakers and those in the People's Republic--or simply what was traditional Hong Kong talent shooting in Beijing--can mean advantages like sumptuous production values. "Legend of the Fist" is a case in point. The nightclub where Anthony Wong presides and Shu Qi sings is a gorgeous set and one that works beautifully with the constant betrayal, skullduggery and lying that propels the story. There are plenty of semi-hidden alcoves for on the multi-level set for plotters to work, although the most obvious bit of duplicity, Shu Qi sending messages to the Japanese secret police was pretty blatant. The club was called Casablanca and, like Rick's Cafe American that served as a more or less neutral ground for competing sides and those who served them, it was a place where Chinese nationalists, Japanese Army officers, spies, hustlers and ne'er-do-wells could rub elbows, sell each other out, see and be seen. Andrew Lau tried to duplicate the scene in "Casablanca" in which the German "Die Wacht Am Rhein" was drowned out by Rick's band plus a motley bunch of customers ripping through "La Marseillaise". Not one of Lau's better ideas.

Another side of working with the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television of the PRC is clunkiness of the political slogans that get stuck into the script. The worst example here happened during planning meetings led by Donnie Yen that included representative of all the constituent parts of the Popular Front against the Japanese invaders. "When he says "One day all China will be united" and is seconded by the self-identified leaders of the students, peasants and petite-bourgouise (the workers, of course, are already in the vanguard) one expects the next line to be something like, "United under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung (as it was formerly known) thought."

Not exactly crimes against cinema but the movie does stop dead in its tracks while waiting for the political slogans.

Donnie Yen was intense, glowered a lot and flexed his neck muscles but didn't come across as a real leader. Anthony Wong was terrific as the reluctant patriot who was always willing to give his all but didn't want anyone to know it. Shu Qi was gorgeous and deadly--a slight problem was that the credits--she is billed as Kiki/Fang Qing/Capt. Yumi Yamaguchi which tells us everything about her.

Reviewer Score: 6