Film Review: Fist of Fury (1972)

Also known as: The Chinese Connection (alternate), Ching Wu School (Canada), Tekken (Japan)
Release Date: March 22nd, 1972 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lo Wei
Written by: Lo Wei
Music by: Joseph Koo
Cast: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, James Tien, Jackie Chan (cameo)

Golden Harvest, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Have pity? Who had pity for Huo Yuan-Chia?” – Chen

Fist of Fury, also known as The Chinese Connection, is the second major role that Bruce Lee had. This quickly followed his smash hit The Big Boss and it was just the second in a string of films pumped out to take advantage of his immense star power, at the time.

While his films were produced and released quickly, they still have a real level of quality to them, especially in comparison to the other Hong Kong kung fu films of the day.

In this movie, we meet Bruce Lee’s Chen as he arrives home just in time to witness the end of his teacher’s funeral. We learn that his teacher was murdered and there’s a conspiracy afoot. His school is then harassed and bullied by a rival school of Japanese karate students. Chen can’t stand down, even though his school and his new teacher demand peace and pacifism. What results, is Lee being a total f’n badass and taking on all comers but his actions also come with consequences and threatens those he cares for. It’s a story about revenge and how that path can lead to worse outcomes but it is also about standing up for oneself.

Lee was excellent and even though he essentially just felt like Bruce Lee in every role, he still owns it and has a presence that shines like a bright beacon. Lee was an exceptional talent and man, does it really show in this film. Not that it doesn’t in others but I don’t think people can really understand or appreciate the phenomenon that was Bruce Lee without actually watching him come alive in a motion picture.

Fist of Fury has some fantastic cinematography and fight choreography that work hand-in-hand. The sequence where Chen confronts the Japanese school and challenges them one-on-about two dozen, is glorious. Just after that, the big battle between the Japanese and Chinese schools is also a perfectly choreographed rumble of epic proportions.

Lee was a strong influence on those he touched and I feel like that rubbed off on the filmmakers he worked with. His fluid motions and exacting execution seems to translate to the filmmakers themselves, as his pictures have the same level of quality and perfection that Lee personally strived for. Sure, they were pictures limited by budget and resources but there isn’t really anything better that came out of Hong Kong in the 1970s and this isn’t a knock against other kung fu films, as many of the ones without Lee are also great pieces of filmmaking. Lee’s films just exist on a pedestal that is very real and not just some mythical structure built by legend and held together with nostalgia.

Fist of Fury isn’t Lee’s best picture but it is damn good. Then again, everything Lee did that came out before his death was solid gold.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: Police Story 2 (1988)

Release Date: August 20th, 1988 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Jackie Chan
Written by: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang
Music by: Michael Lai, Tang Siu Lam
Cast: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Charlie Cho

Golden Harvest, Media Asia Group, 101 Minutes 

Review:

I was a big fan of Police Story, as a kid, but I never saw this one until now. I’m glad I did, as it bridges the gap between the original film and the third one, which was released theatrically in the United States as Supercop.

This chapter in the series is a true continuation of the first movie and it features much of the same cast. It goes deeper into the relationship between Chan’s Chan Ka-kui and his girlfriend May, played by the returning Maggie Cheung. It also shows the repercussions of Chan’s actions from the first film, as he starts out being demoted to traffic patrol.

The version I got to see of this film was in its native language and subtitled, which was a huge improvement over the dubbed version of the original Police Story, which I have watched for years. Although, the subtitles kept referring to Inspector Chan Ka-kui as “Kevin”.

This film is not as good as the original but it is still a solid Chan flick. It is tamer in nature and not nearly as gritty as its predecessor. The humor, while still there, seems to be a bit toned down too. It is still a lighthearted movie but the slapstick shtick is more reserved, even though the stunts still employ the typical Chan style.

Police Story 2 is a bit all over the place, from a narrative standpoint. It reintroduces old villains but then brings in some new ones. It just doesn’t seem to work and it feels like the addition of these new baddies, when it pops up, is sort of out of nowhere.

While most people don’t really watch Jackie Chan outings for a great story, a good narrative helps to set apart which of his films are in the upper echelon and which aren’t. In that regard, this one fails to live up to the standard bearer that is the first Police Story.

The stunts are still top notch and pretty impressive. Nothing is as iconic though, as the big finale of Police Story, the original. While the factory finale here is really good, it just doesn’t hit the mark like the shopping mall finale.

All things considered, if you love Chan, you will probably still really enjoy this picture. It came out in his prime and his athleticism and charm are incredible.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Police Story (1985)

Release Date: December 14th, 1985 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Jackie Chan
Written by: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang, Golden Way Creative Group
Music by: Michael Lai, Tang Siu Lam
Cast: Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Chor Yuen, Charlie Cho

Golden Harvest, Media Asia Group, 101 Minutes 

Review:

While I love Jackie Chan, there are few of his movies that I consider to be cinematic classics. Police Story is one of those movies.

This was the first Chan film I saw as a kid and even though it has really shitty English dubbing, I didn’t let that deter me, as I was caught up in the fantastic stunts and charmed by Chan’s comedic and bad ass charisma.

The bad dubbing makes some of the humor a lot more over the top and goofier than it was probably intended but Chan’s comedy style still comes through. While the film features a good amount of old fashioned violence, it is still lighthearted enough to not really cross a line. It is a good balance of the cinematic style of 1980s Hong Kong gangster films mixed in with Chan’s unique comedic shtick.

This film also features some of my favorite Jackie Chan stunts, most notably the infamous pole slide through the exploding lights in the mall courtyard. Overall, it features less stunts than his bigger films that would come later. It also isn’t as creative as some of those stunt spectacles but as time went on, Chan had to get bigger and better with each picture.

Police Story is a grittier movie than what most modern Chan fans might expect. He was inspired by the cinema trends surrounding him in the mid-80s and he still hadn’t mastered his style and found his perfect niche or formula. But the rawness of it is what makes it refreshing when compared to his lighter films that came after.

The story, in a nutshell, sees Chan have to protect a woman from mobsters that want to kill her before she testifies against them. It also features a sort of love triangle between the woman and Chan’s girlfriend, played by the talented Maggie Cheung.

Police Story was hugely successful and went on to spawn, not just a sequel, but a franchise. Overall, it is the longest running and best franchise that Chan was a part of. While it might not have made the money of the Rush Hour series, it far surpasses it in quality filmmaking.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Rumble In the Bronx (1995)

Release Date: January 21st, 1995 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Stanley Tong
Written by: Edward Tang, Fibe Ma
Music by: Nathan Wong (Hong Kong version), J. Peter Robinson (USA version)
Cast: Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Francoise Yip

Golden Harvest, 106 Minutes (Hong Kong), 87 Minutes (USA) 

rumble-in-the-bronxReview:

I love Jackie Chan but despite the fanfare it gets, Rumble In the Bronx is a fairly shitty movie. Well, the American version of the film plays horribly, anyway.

To start, Rumble In the Bronx has some of the worst English dubbing I have ever heard. I mean, it is truly awful. Considering that the majority of the actors could speak English, yet they didn’t do alternate takes or let the regular actors dub their own lines is pretty baffling. I mean, I get it, this was a picture limited by budget but realistically, its budget was larger than earlier Chan pictures and it was made in an effort to help him crossover to the international mainstream.

Granted, the crossover worked. This film lead to Jackie Chan becoming a regular in American films and it also helped bring his other Hong Kong pictures to U.S. theaters.

But that dubbing is atrocious. Especially for the thugs and the little handicapped kid, who you should really feel for but instead find yourself laughing at him every time he starts yelling about his damn cushion.

The acting is awful, not that you watch these types of films for acting but when the movie is made up primarily of stuntmen with speaking roles, you can see the problem. Granted, the dubbing didn’t help and can probably take some of the blame.

This is also called Rumble In the Bronx but the Bronx is actually Vancouver and it is really noticeable. In fact, it is pretty distracting, especially when you see mountains in many of the outdoor scenes.

Additionally, I’m not sure what the people of Hong Kong think street gangs in New York City look and act like but this film is way off. Then again, it probably serves America right, as we have done a poor job of portraying other cultures since filmmaking began.

Are there positives? Sure.

The whole ending sequence with the hovercraft is pretty damn fun. Also, the fight choreography and stunts are top notch. Chan really lets it all hang out in this film. However, it still doesn’t knock your socks off like some of his other movies. But in the end, he has that Jackie Chan charm and it is hard to not love his character, even if he is always the same character.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Rumble In the Bronx. It just doesn’t cut the mustard when compared to Chan’s other work. I think they could have done much better in creating a film to help Jackie Chan crossover but again, it worked.

Rating: 6/10