Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen review

            With the title Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, it feels as though it is referencing the film itself rather than the storyline. In other words, although the character Chen Zhen returns at the beginning of the film, it is almost as if the title is also referring to the return of this character to screen. Previously played by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury, then again by Jet Li in Fist of Legend, Chen Zhen returns once again in Legend of the Fist. How a fist of legend is different from the legend of the fist, I’m not certain, but this time Zhen is played by Donnie Yen.

            Yen has most recently made his martial arts name through the IP Man franchise, which is about the true story of a martial arts master who eventually taught Bruce Lee. Now he is playing the same role as Lee once did. Somehow after all of these years, Bruce Lee is still considered the standard for excellence in cinematic martial arts. Yen makes an admirable effort, and his talents will certainly be remembered as well.

            Legend of the Fist combines the use of many genres, though none for very long before shifting to another. Zhen returns to China after fighting with the Allied forces in World War I, pretending to be a wealthy playboy at a popular club called Casablanca. At the same time he investigates the Japanese invasion, learning ways to subvert it while under the guise of a masked warrior playing in pictures.

            Drifting from film noir to espionage thriller and into superhero action film, Legend of the Fist occasionally tries to be too many things. This is not to say that it isn’t an admirable effort, though the overall film seems overstocked and not altogether satisfying. While the action is incredible and almost over-the-top in spectacle, there are far too many moments tangled up in melodrama between our protagonist and a femme fatale type character from the nightclub (Shu Qi).

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