Fist Of Fury a.k.a. The Chinese Connection (1972): Breakdown by Kain424
A martial arts student returns home to find his teacher dead. Vengeance-fueled violence ensues.
After audiences reacted so positively to Bruce Lee in The Big Boss, writer-director Lo Wei quickly produced a follow-up film. This time, Lee would have complete control over his fight choreography and an excellent stunt team made up of new up-and-comers in the business like Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, and Ying Gang-Ming (also known as Corey Yuen). The result would be one bad-ass film, by which most others in the genre would be judged.
The story is a simple one wherein Lee returns home to find his teacher dead and possibly murdered. He seeks out the cause of his master’s death and begins exacting revenge, but at the cost of his school’s future and the lives of his friends around him. Lee handles the acting well enough, but it’s clear his focus is on the fighting. The battles are powerful pieces of work, iconic and amazing. Most of which pit Bruce against multiple foes and change from hand-to-hand into weapon-based combat and then back again. Lee is shown to be so proficient in the arts, he can kill a man with a single, impossibly powerful punch to a man’s torso.
In fact, much of the movie focuses on how strong our protagonist actually is. Throughout, he performs feats so amazing they seem to belong in the strongman genre rather than in a kung fu flick. It’s probably due to this unexpected blend of genre tropes that would contribute to the success of this film. It certainly affected the films that would be made afterword, and in fact, it singlehandedly nearly killed off the swordery flicks that had dominated the genre before it.
Sadly, Lo Wei and Bruce Lee had a turbulent time working together on the set, with Lee ultimately deciding never to work with Lo again. This was largely due to the racial conflicts seen in the film, which Bruce was uncomfortable with. Lee would go on to make Way Of The Dragon and Enter The Dragon, becoming a major star for his efforts. Meanwhile, Lo Wei would spend the rest of his career trying to replicate the successful formula of Fist Of Fury.
Anyhow, this one’s a winner. And while I find the ending to be both abrupt and silly, the film remains just as cool as it’s lead. Definitely check this one out.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Bruce Lee is Chen Zhen
Chen would probably be bad-ass even he wasn’t played by Bruce Lee. He has the Fist of Fury, a punch that essentially eviscerates its target’s soul, killing them painfully.
Lee struts about the whole film, wearing a badge of bad-assness on his shoulders. Of course, this doesn’t mean he’s too proud to hide from his foes. Chen makes camp in a cemetery on the outskirts of Shanghai, where he spitroasts and eats dogs. A firm believer in either pure force or pure subterfuge, when he’s not battling multiple enemies he’s sneaking about their lair in various disguises.
Chen takes on dojos full of martial artists, barely taking a hit. He positively OWNS with nunchakus, taking out either hordes of foes or skilled swordsmen. At one point he even lifts up a rickshaw with a man riding in it. Chen is truly bad-ass.
[THE BODY COUNT: 39]
This one’s quite the violent film, opening with a deceased master and ending with a deceased hero. Lee kills 29, making him the deadliest character by far. And though the rest belong to the villains, it could be said that they died because of Lee’s actions. Whatever your stance is, there are plenty of bodies in this film.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Having annihilated the other foes in the Japanese dojo, Lee confronts the master. The fight begins as a hand-to-hand match, but quickly becomes entangled in various weaponry. After the Japanese dojo-master attempts several sword attacks, Lee knocks the blade from his foe’s hands.
And while the samurai sword is still in the air, Lee lands several blows before positioning the villain to become the human sheath for his own blade on its return down. After the sword has pierced the unfortunate fellow’s torso, Lee then throws a right cross and knocks the man to the ground. Overkill? Sure. Awesome? Hell yeah.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Whatever the relationship between Chen Zhen and his master was, it ran deep. Upon learning of his teacher’s demise, Chen leaps onto the coffin of the deceased, crying and clawing away at the dirt it is being buried in. That’s love.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Though there are several women shown being beat here, they are all fighters themselves. In fact, the women of Fist Of Fury are shown to be remarkably well-rounded individuals and occasionally formidable fighters. Bruce Lee’s love interest is given a personality of her own, complete with moral choices and a character arch. Pretty progressive for a 70s kung fu film.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The CHINESE women are shown in a progressive light. Not the villainous Japanese, whose women are docile sex slaves that cater to a man’s every whim. And if you have a copy of this film with a good transfer, you’ll even get to see some Japanese stripper shrubbery.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The Japanese show up at Chen’s martial arts school, issuing a challenge to anyone present to try and defeat them. Their teacher recently deceased, with his most stringent wish being that they never try and be competitive for competition’s sake, no one at the school answers the challenge. The Japanese mock them for their ways, leaving a large paper sign calling the school “sick men of Asia.”
On his own accord, Chen shows up at the Japanese’s dojo to return their sign, and personally accept the challenge. Alone and calling himself the “worst” of the school he represents, Chen completely decimates every fighter there. Before he leaves Chen makes the two best fighters literally eat their words, tearing apart the sign and stuffing it into their mouths. Which they willingly chew out of shear terror.
“Eat. This time you’re eating paper. The next time it’s going to be glass.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Revenge may precede justice, but it only perpetuates the cycle of violence and retribution.
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s) [disguises]
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting [Jackie Chan!]
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [New Fist Of Fury]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice