Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen 精武風雲-陳真 (2010) – Hong Kong / China

Uneven yet entertaining routine…

Donnie Yen is officially over-exposed. While his latest venture in Chen Zhen will not diminish his popularity, but the for movie lovers, this is just yet another more of the same. The fact that Jet Li made far superior prequel in 1994 (namely Fist of Legend) adds to the disappointment. Mr. Gordon Chan serves as producer seems to have forgotten how to make a film more even, while director Andrew Lau Is once again lost incoherence when without his counterpart Mak Siu Fai. Still, Legend of Fist is by no means a bad film, in fact, I find it quite entertaining. However, one would expect more with the current status of Yen and everyone else involved.

One thing I cannot stop noticing is that Donnie Yen plays Chen Zhen like Ip Man. Not only did the final fight looks like Ip Man, but Yen acted with retrained in his character, a bit too much like the aforementioned icon. Just when he is required to do more overacting, Yen restrained to his stoned delivery. I remember watching Yen fights his way through to the big boss in Fist of Fury ATV series. His overacting created the atmosphere. While I am condoning overacting, as Yen is previously notorious for that, but I am disappointed that Yen cannot stray off his Ip Man image. I am also somewhat disappointed in the final fight scene with a class of students. In Jet Li’s Fist of Legend, the scene was creatively filmed with overhead camera angles. Here, it is deadpan and the delivery is flat and how he cleaned up the room seems rather contrived and unclear. The final fight with the Japanese general is too routine and cliché to be anywhere near affecting.

Antony Wong is wasted in a role where he adds next to nothing. Perhaps filmed at the same time as his venture into the Laughing Gor’s role, Wong tries hard, but the script fails him. To say the least, I might admit that the best thing may well be Shu Qi. Her role is complicated and somehow she is able to pull it off. I wouldn’t say that she dazzled the screen, but she was most certainly the most watchable character in the movie. Another problem is the lack of chemistry between Yen and Qi, which may well adds up to the unaffecting finale.

All in all, Legend of the Fist is a decent entry into the martial arts arena, but it fails to have the same impact as Ip Man. The reason is simple, where Ip Man is a well directed film, Chen Zhen is not. At times the film feels too random, incoherent and at the end of the day rather uneven. Yen have physical presence and as well as musical talents, but his acting is still a long way from being accomplished. It seems as though that Yen is still riding on his waves of Ip Man’s success. While it is not necessarily a bad thing, Chen Zhen is at the end of the day an iconic character made famous by both Bruce Lee, Jet Li and himself. To me, the donning of the mask (like Kato) should never have happened. Still, the Legend of the Fist is a decent film, some fine action scenes and more importantly people just can’t get enough of Donnie Yen. Does it live up to expectations? Probably not. Does it brings the audience back to the cinemas? Yes. Maybe I am just a tad too demanding and after all, how can Donnie Yen do anything wrong…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 6/10

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