Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Original Mandarin Title: 精武風雲-陳真
Release Date: September 23, 2010 
Directed by: Andrew Lau
Language: Cantonese, Japanese
Music by: Chan Kwong-Wing
Starring: Donnie Yen, Shu Qi, Anthony Wong, Huang Bo, Kohata Ryu, Yasuaki Kurata, Zhou Yang, Huo Siyan, Shawn Yue, Ma Yue, Ma Su, Chen Jiajia, Zhang Songwen, Lü Xiaolin, Yale Varty

The supposedly dead Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) joins an underground resistance movement to prevent the future Japanese Occupation in China. In 1917, he and a few Chinese comrades went to France to fight against the Nazi Germany. Soon in 1925, he returns to visit his friend named Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong), a businessman and owner of a Casablanca nightclub, which is the central of attraction for most foreigners in Shanghai.

Nightclub singer and Japanese secret agent, Kiki (Shu Qi)

In the same time, he is attracted to Kiki (Shu Qi), a nightclub singer. One night, Chen Zhen discovers that the Japanese are planning to assassinate General Zeng (Shawn Yue), the son of a northern warlord, and push the blame to General Zhuo (Ma Yue), a rival warlord. Zeng’s death will spark off a civil war between the two warlords and aid the subsequent Japanese invasion. Chen Zhen disguises himself as a masked superhero (The Green Hornet’s sidekick, Kato) and defeats the assassins and saves Zeng.

Nightclub owner of Casablanca, Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong) with Kiki

When the operation has failed, Tokyo sends a name list of prominent anti-Japanese activists to Colonel Chikaraishi Takeshi (Kohata Ryu), leader of the Japanese secret agency in Shanghai, ordering him to kill the people on the list within a month. Chikaraishi leaks out the list, causing panic among the populace, and pays a visit to the nightclub. Chikaraishi initially finds Chen Zhen suspicious, and his doubts are confirmed when he compares a photo of the real Qi Tianyuan with the one stolen from Chen Zhen by Kiki.

Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) dons Kato's suit (The Green Hornet's sidekick)

Chikaraishi is aware of Chen Zhen’s true identity and he challenges Chen to save the people on the list. Chen Zhen and Chikaraishi races against time to save and assassinate the activists respectively, with most of the targets being killed while others manage to escape. Eventually, Chikaraishi’s younger brother leads a team of killers to murder the editor of the Shanghai Times, who is a friend and fellow comrade of Chen Zhen. Chen Zhen fails to save him and sees his friend die before him, after which he takes vengeance on the murderers.

Chen Zhen is trying to save General Zeng from being assassinated

In the meantime, Chen Zhen figures out that Kiki is a Japanese secret agent, warns her to leave or he will kill her. At this point, Chikaraishi starts to distrust Kiki and he forces her to kill General Zeng’s girlfriend, one of her close friends. The blame is placed on General Zhuo and the angered General Zeng attacks Zhuo with support from Japanese forces, starting a civil war.

One night, the Japanese corner Chen Zhen on the street and knock him unconscious, before bringing him to their headquarters to torture him. Chikaraishi reveals to Chen Zhen that he is the son of the Hongkou dojo’s master, who was defeated and killed by Chen Zhen a few years ago. He releases Chen Zhen and says that he will personally avenge his father later.

Chen Zhen’s friends stage a raid on the Japanese headquarters and cause serious damage with explosives before fleeing the scene. The Japanese track down Chen’s comrades and murder them. Chen Zhen is thrown out of a car in front of the nightclub and remains in coma for days while he recovers from his injuries.

Chen Zhen suit up his infamous white collar to trash the dojo again

With the Japanese Occupation finally reaches the whole of China and General Zhuo is killed in action with his forces, there seems to be nothing that the resistance can prevent the Japanese from occupying Shanghai. Chikaraishi sends Kiki to challenge Chen Zhen to a fight in the Hongkou dojo. Chen Zhen accepts the challenge and meets Chikaraishi, who kills one of his comrades and Kiki in front of him.

Final Fight: Colonel Chikaraishi Takeshi (Kohata Ryu) vs. Chen Zhen

Fuel with raging anger, Chen Zhen defeats all the combatants alone, after which he faces Chikaraishi in a one-on-one bout and defeats his opponent eventually. At the end of the film, Chen Zhen continues to dress like Kato and help the resistance to eliminate the Japanese.

Reviewer’s Note:
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen continues from the Fist of Fury (1995) TV series which also starring Donnie Yen. After a long absent since his last fight against the Japanese Occupation, he returns to Shanghai after fighting against the Italians and Germans in France.

Donnie Yen as Chen Zhen in Fist of Fury (1995) TV Series

There are interesting fight scenes and moves done by Yen. He is the “superman”, but can still be mortally wounded or injured. Yet again, there are some moves are remarkably impossible such as a long jump and a fast wall climb. The immersing power he puts on to take on everyone is tremendous and exploding.

Unfortunately, the last scene with the final battle with the Colonel Chikairashi isn’t what I expect to watch. Such a short stint among those two. However, the film still preserves its famous scream tactic which the late Bruce Late uses in his film.

Lee was the original Chen Zhen before Jet Li took over the role and now Donnie Yen becomes the latest person to play the character. Chen Zhen’s return doesn’t seem to really focus on his return; it’s more like donning the Kato’s uniform seems to be highlight of it.

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