Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fist of Fury

Written, set designed, and directed by Lo Wei, Fist of Fury is the story of a martial arts student who learns about the death of his master as he believes the man is murdered prompting him to seek revenge. The film is a simple revenge tale as it follows a man trying to find his master’s murderers during the Japanese-occupation of Shanghai of 1908. Starring Bruce Lee and Nora Miao. Fist of Fury is a thrilling and exciting film from Lo Wei.

The film revolves around a student who returns to Japanese-occupied Shanghai to learn that his master has died as he believed that he was murdered as the school his master used to run is being threatened by a Japanese karate school. It’s a film that is about vengeance as a man who arrives at the school to be married only to learn about his master’s death as he’s overcome with grief and guilt. Lo Wei’s screenplay follows the character of Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) as he doesn’t just cope with the loss of his master but also the threats from a nearby Japanese dojo that wants to put the Chinese martial arts school out of business for good. Chen would confront the dojo only to cause trouble as he realizes that he and the school must defend themselves against the dojo but the master student Fan Junxia (Tien Feng) doesn’t want to cause harm to the school. Chen would force himself to do everything himself as the script showcases how he would discover what happened to his master and confront the dojo’s master Hiroshi Suzuki (Riki Hashimoto) who has been trying to rid of the Chinese from Shanghai to ensure Japan’s hold on the city.

Wei’s direction is definitely stylish in the way he presents some of the action throughout the film as well as providing this tension between the Chinese and Japanese with the latter occupying the city that actually belongs to the former. While Wei would use a few wide shots, much of his compositions are simple with some stylish moments in some of the close-ups he creates including perspective shots from Chen’s opponents as they deal with his kicks and punches. Still, he’s more about the moment in the action such as Chen’s first confrontation with the dojo as it is a moment that is exciting and fun to watch. Wei, who is also the film’s production designer with help from art director Hsin Chien, would find ways to create the set to create these nice set pieces to display the difference of the two schools as well as Suzuki’s home which is gorgeous yet displays Japan’s sense of dominance towards China in those times. Notably as the climax reveals some of the fallacies of vengeance and what one must do for justice as the opposition he faces won’t do the right thing. Overall, Wei creates an exhilarating and intense film about a kung fu student seeking revenge for the death of his master.

Cinematographer Chan Ching-kui does excellent work with the film’s colorful cinematography which uses a low-grade film stock to play into some of the grittiness of the urban locations in Shanghai to the more gorgeous look of the Suzuki’s home. Editor Peter Cheung does terrific work with the editing as it has some jump-cuts and other stylized cuts to play into the action and suspense. Costume designer Sheng-Hsi Chu does nice work with the costumes from the white suit Chen wears early in the film to the clothes he would wear when he is kicking ass. Sound mixer Ping Wong does superb work with the sound as it feature some unique sound effects and moments that play into the action. The film’s music by Joseph Koo is amazing for its score with its strings, horns, and percussions that play into the action and suspense as it is one of the film’s highlights.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Wong Chung-shun as a chef for the kung fu school, Han Ying-chieh as the school’s caretaker, director Lo Wei as the police inspector who is sympathetic to the Chinese side, Fung Ngai as Suzuki’s teacher of his school, and Jackie Chan in a very small role as a student at the kung fu school. Paul Wei is fantastic as Suzuki’s slimy translator Wu En who constantly insults the kung fu and its students while Robert Baker is superb as Suzuki’s Russian friend Petrov as a gangster who is quite strong and wants to help Suzuki.

Tien Feng is terrific as the master student Fan Junxia who is trying to run the school and not bring any trouble while Nora Miao is wonderful as Chen’s fiancĂ©e Yuan Li’er as a young woman who is concerned with the state of the school as well as what Chen is doing. Riki Hashimoto is excellent as the antagonist Hiroshi Suzuki as a crime boss who runs a dojo that is trying to increase his business and rule by trying to get rid of the kung fu school. Finally, there’s Bruce Lee in a phenomenal performance as Chen Zhen as a student of the school who is trying to avenge the death of his master while trying to see if the man was really murdered as he also become aware of the prejudice toward his people during Japan’s occupation of Shanghai as it’s one of Lee’s finest performances.

Fist of Fury is an incredible film from Lo Wei that features an iconic performance from the late Bruce Lee. It’s a film that knows what it is while being something a bit more in terms of what is expected in a martial arts film. In the end, Fist of Fury is a remarkable film from Lo Wei.

Related: The Big Boss - The Way of the DragonEnter the Dragon - Game of Death

© thevoid99 2017


Dell said...

I love this movie. You're right on about the stylish way this movie is shot, especially during the fight scenes. Speaking of which, the dojo scene is so phenomenal and iconic. And yes, Tarantino ripped it off for The Bride's battle with the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1. He also rips off Way of the Dragon for her fight with Oren Ishii.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-It is an awesome film and so fun to watch. Of course Tarantino would rip off ideas from Bruce Lee films but it's a true homage. The fight with Ishii was really more inspired by the Lady Snowblood films which are worth watching.