Chenzhen (Bruce Lee) is a former student of the Jingwu School who returns when his Master dies of stomach flu. Chenzhen doesn’t believe the diagnosis and, when the school is challenged by a Japanese doju, starts to investigate exactly what happened. Unfortunately, his methods involve kicking the ass of anyone he feels may be involved, which starts a mini war between the two schools.
The police get involved and everyone is hunting Chenzhen for one reason or another. He then discovers that his Master was actually poisoned and so begins upping the ante by killing and hanging the perpetrators from a lamp post before he wades into the Japanese dojo to finish the job.
Fist of Fury is incredibly violent considering the amount of characters who die on screen, some via the eponymous appendage, and is all the better for it. There is very little of the impish side of Lee on show here as his character seeks revenge for the unlawful killing of his Master, stopping at nothing to avenge his death.
There are some cracking set pieces here, not least the first time Chenzhen wades into the Japanese dojo and defeats all comers by himself. The artistry and almost ballet-like choreography on show in the fight sequences provide a real insight into the professionalism of the cinema industry of the Far East during the early ‘70s. It’s interesting to see how the law worked, or didn’t work dependent on your point of view, there in the early 20th century, with the Japanese having a real grip on power and almost being above the law.
The romantic sub-plot involving Chenzhen and Yuan Le-erh seems almost tacked on, but that doesn’t really matter that much as we all came to see some great fight scenes and we are not disappointed. Watching Lee face off against foes and their weapons is a sight to behold and it’s always fun to see that Lee did not consider fighting dirty to be below him – in real life, it’s not always perfectly landed kicks.
A final scene of Chenzhen refusing to go quietly as he is double crossed is a punch in the gut after he offers to take the fall to protect his school and is a moment of melancholy gravitas in a film otherwise powered by brutal machismo.
Regardless, Fist of Fury is a classic in its genre, and rightly so.
FIST OF FURY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: WEI LO / STARRING: BRUCE LEE, NORA MIAO, JAMES TIEN, MARIA YI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW