Friday, August 22, 2008

Movie Review: New Fist Of Fury

The Jackie Chan Film Festival continues with its third film, one that is well-paired with the previous Eagle Shadow Fist. Both movies are set in the Japanese occupation period (and thus are populated by "those evil Jap bastard"-type characters), both feature the early "serious" Jackie Chan, and both are really better left on the shelf. I can't really say this one is as bad as Eagle Shadow Fist - the production levels are quite a bit better, in terms of sets, actors and fight choreography. I don't know if this film had much of a budget, but it was more than Eagle Shadow Fist.

This is, of course, because it is a follow-up to Fist Of Fury, the Bruce Lee classic. But when Lo Wei's new star suddenly died on him, he decided to dip back into his pool of actors to find a replacement. And so there's several callbacks to the earlier film - breaking signs with flying kicks, prominent use of nunchaku, scratches across the face, that cool strobe effect when the hero waves his hands around. Oh, and those two still shots of Bruce that appear in the middle of the film for no particular reason. Subtle as always.

Of course, Jackie is no Bruce - he's Jackie (or "Jacky", as he is credited here). And so, although we still don't get the more comedic persona he would develop later, Jackie's character here is still a bit more lighthearted than Bruce's. He spends the first two-thirds of the film refusing to join the Chinese resistence, not because of pacifistic reasons, but because he says he doesn't know kung-fu and is too lazy to learn (he'd rather just be a thief). He then backs up his words by getting beaten up several times, including knocking himself out with a set nunchuku.

During the long stretches when Jackie isn't on screen, we get a plotline where the Japanese governor is attempting to take control of all of the local kung-fu schools. As usual in these films, there are collaborators; there are the naive, blustery talkers who get in over their heads; there are the active resistors; and there are those who just want to stay out of the way. Pretty standard stuff. Things proceed along the expected path until for some reason Jackie decides he's had all he can stands, he can't stands no more! He immediately joins the resistance, becomes a master fighter in a three-minute training montage, and kills the big boss.

Oh, and then as an odd coda, Jackie prepares to lead the resistance fighters on to "kill more Japs"....when he is suddenly ambushed and killed in a hail of bullets. The End.


On the whole, I still can't really give this film more than one star, although it is a marked improvement over Eagle Shadow Fist (which probably would be a zero if I went that low). It really would just be thrown in a pile with all of the other Bruceploitation films if not for the fact that Jackie eventually went on to success independent of Lo Wei. Sadly for us, those days are still in the future, for the next film on the schedule is another Lo Wei epic, The Killer Meteors, featuring supporting actor Jackie Chan.

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