New Fist Of Fury Review
Following the death of Bruce Lee, film producers paid homage to his legend by doing their damndest to make a fast buck on the most famous name in kung fu. Lookalikes, name-alikes and soundalikes all appeared with the law of diminishing returns being proven by the rotten films and actors that had but a threadbare connection to Bruce Lee. Lee Roy Lung even donned the famous yellow-and-black jumpsuit to star in The Bruce Lee Story, with Lee Roy being cast as Bruce Lee for a biopic but also getting to star in the film-within-a-film that Bruce Lee would have made.
Jackie Chan was no different, finding himself in one of his earliest leading roles in an unlikely sequel to Bruce Lee's Fist Of Fury. In the four years between that film and this one, the Jin Wu school of kung fu has been destroyed by the Japanese, which forces Ching Hua (Nora Miao playing the part of Bruce Lee's sister from Fist Of Fury) to travel to Taiwan in the hope of a fresh start. Her arrival is complicated by two things, though, one being the local Japanese officers who take an interest in her arrival and the theft of her nunchukas by a petty thief, Ah Lung (Jackie Chan). A little later Ching Hua recovers them by the side of the road but with them she finds a badly beaten Ah Lung who, as she nurses him, tells her that he was punished by the pupils of Chan Sing, a martial arts master who has remained loyal to the Japanese. Ching Hua invites him to join her own school but he refuses. Or so he does at first, changing his mind when he sees the banner at Ching Hua's school torn down by the Japanese. Eventually, Ah Lung begins to learn kung fu but when Chan Sing demands that all kung fu schools submit to him, will Ah Lung make a stand against Chan Sing and the Japanese who have supported him?
To enjoy New Fist Of Fury doesn't require any knowledge of the Bruce Lee original - it helps but it's far from necessary - nor any liking for kung fu but rather a mind to ignore the racial slurs that are present throughout. One doesn't doubt the turbulent history between Japan and China but from the very beginning, Ah Lung makes no secret of his dislike of the Japanese presence in his country. At first, this is merely surprising - try to imagine a British film that featured an emerging lead insulting the Germans every few minutes - but soon grows tiresome. It may be that we are culturally removed from the tension between the two countries but the heavy-handed politics is very far removed from what one expects of kung fu and Jackie Chan, particularly with a star who spends most of the film insulting the Japanese, being beaten up or sulking. Not quite Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu. Indeed, it's not even as light-hearted as The Protector.
Otherwise, New Fist Of Fury is fairly entertaining but largely because the clowning around that normally comes with Jackie Chan is restrained and, instead, he's an increasingly serious martial artist, even ruthless as the film ends. He's no match for Bruce Lee in Fist Of Fury but, then again, this seriousness really isn't his style. Indeed, it's fair to say that he even looks a little uncomfortable in some of the dramatic scenes and though she tries hard, Nora Miao cannot carry the film on her own. However, with some good fight scenes, particularly one near the film's end, there is some value in it if a collection of Jackie Chan films is feeling incomplete without it. However, with this being much shorter than the two-hour original cut of New Fist Of Fury, you would be paying much for an incomplete version of the film.
It says Ultrabit on the cover but it's no an example of DVD mastering than a drawing in felt-tip of a horse by my seven-year-old daughter. Like many other Ultrabit releases, the cover promises very much more than the disc delivers, completely unlike the Dragon Dynasty releases, which look great without the need to bill themselves as hopelessly disconnected with the reality as this one. Like the other Ultrabit releases, the problems start as soon as the film does with the logos wobbling before the action even begins. Thereafter, this wobble continues - watching it on a very small screen seems to be the only way to reduce this - but what's worse is the amount of damage on the print, such a loss of detail as to look unfocused and a leap between garish colours and dull browns that never seems to find a actual style. Some of this is due to the production, which looks as though its set in various back alleys, kung fu schools built on back lawns and dojos above shops but the DVD presentation does the film no favours. Ultrabit? Hardly.
The audio track isn't a good deal better. While there are none of the psychedelic phasing effects of The Protector, this sounds brittle, harsh and with less body than the average skeleton. Each punch sounds like a twig being snapped, making New Fist Of Fury a fairly unpleasant listen. The two DD5.1 Surround soundtracks make no use at all of the rear channels making the Mono track the pick of the three available but there's very little in it with each one sounding as thin as the others. Finally, there are English subtitles.
Without a commentary by Andrew Staton, the only bonus material is an Alternative Beginning (8m04s), which by its use of some terrible caricatures of Japanese guards, we can understand why and how it was that Ching Hua left for Taiwan. This looks very much worse than the main feature and comes with an English dub rather than a choice of
There is also a set of trailers, or Further Attractions as they're billed on Hong Kong Legends releases, which includes Police Story, Police Story 2 and New Police Story, Project A and Project A: Part 2.