Continuing our Bruce Lee series, Fist of Fury is next on the list of Bruce Lee movies. After talking about Enter The Dragon, I was eager to dive more into the teachings Bruce Lee brought through cinema. While Enter the Dragon taught us about our enemy, Fist of Fury dives more into the fall of ourselves.
Fist of Fury starts an entire sub franchise that eventually starred Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the Chen Zhen role but that’s a review for another day. Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury was the second film the martial arts legend starred in and it took off. Also known as The Chinese Connection, the movie elevated Lee’s eventual rise to superstardom in the western world.
The premise behind Fist of Fury is simple, honestly. Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) and his gym’s master has mysteriously died. While some agree that it was of natural causes, Lee’s character suspects otherwise. It becomes clear that the Japanese have been up to something and Bruce Lee sets out to find why.
Lee’s movies are always entertaining. In addition to the stunning choreography that you can expect, Bruce Lee has a great sense of humor as well. From laughing at a small Japanese man challenging the martial arts master to Bruce Lee dressing as a telephone repair man and old guy, there’s plenty that will get you laughing.
Also, a fun fact, Fist of Fury became the first movie to be dubbed into the Australian language of Noongar. This happened in 2021, which shows the historical significance the movie has held throughout the years.
Fist of Fury: The Good
Obviously the fight scenes are fantastic in Fist of Fury. That’s what Lee hangs his hat on. The fight scenes are extensive and, while they can feel long, keep you in the movie. Keep in mind, the film came out in Hong Kong in 1972. Film and audio editing weren’t quite there and the film is overdubbed due to the original version being in Chinese. That said, it doesn’t really take away the quality of the movie.
In addition to that, the story behind Fist of Fury is quite good for the time it came out. There are a couple plot twist and “holy crap” moments in the movie. For example, Bruce Lee picks up an entire carriage (obviously it’s assisted by wire) but suspension of disbelief is required here, as with many other movies.
Fist of Fury: The Bad
The sensei of the bushido dojo is fat. That’s a little too far of a stretch for me. He doesn’t fit the role ascetically. Him actually getting to Lee and hurting him a little is also a bit far fetched for me, he’s very obviously slower and nowhere near as trained as Lee.
There was also the scene with the Geisha dancing girl that was completely out of place. The Japanese are entertaining the new Russian fighter that Lee will have to fight and she’s dancing and get’s near naked. While I don’t have a problem with the Geisha dance, it just seems out of place in the movie.
Lessons from Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury
The lessons of Bruce Lee permeate long past his passing. In Fist of Fury we get deep lessons on revenge, injustice and the dark road that can accompany the two.
We see Chen Zhen grieve more so than his fellow Chinese counterparts. That grief and anger leads him to hunting down the Japanese and ultimately go on a killing spree, a dark path for the martial artist. Lee does well to portray the increasing anger as the movie goes on. From sitting there fuming to unloading a barrage of punches on those that stand in his way, killing them, to outright stabbing someone.
The movie is very pro-China. The Japanese are depicted as barbarians and racist, making fun of Chen Zhen by calling him a dog. It even goes as far as Wu, the Japanese interpreter, saying, “The Chinese are a race of weaklings, no comparison to us Japanese.” The film shows the injustices of the Chinese Chen Zhen and how it should and should not be handled.
And of course it all boils down to right and wrong, and while Bruce Lee’s character felt he and his master was wronged by the Japanese, you must face the consequences. Zhen has the police at his gym and he surrenders himself for all the killings he’s done. He’s basically a serial killer at this point. While the ending implies his death, we know that Chen Zhen’s legacy lives on in New Fist of Fury indirectly.
Fist of Fury Rating: 8.5/10
Fist of Fury holds up incredibly well for a martial arts film that came out in 1972. The choreography, which was done by Bruce Lee in his parts, was and still is out of this world. The story, while heavy handed on the anti-Japanese sentiment, wasn’t terrible in hindsight.
The only knock on this film for me is the very obvious pro-China/anti-Japan sentiment the movie tries to force down the viewer’s throat. Lee was not a fan of this either, opting not to work with director Lo Wei after this. According to Jackie Chan, who did stunt work for the movie, even got into an argument and Lo Wei had to hide behind his wife when Lee came at him, forcing his wife to calm Bruce Lee down.