Jackie Chan: The New Bruce Lee

New Fist Of Fury

[THE CHALK-OUTLINE]

New Fist Of Fury a.k.a. Xin jing wu men (1976): Breakdown by Kain424

Survivors of the first film escape to Taiwan to start a martial arts school, and a young thief helps them give rise to a rebellion against the Japanese.

[THE EXECUTION]

The genre that became known as Bruceploitation had gone into full swing by the time Lo Wei had the brilliant idea to make a direct sequel to one of Lee’s own films.  Jackie Chan, who had attempted to break out in films but ultimately failed, had to be lured back to the business to star.  Lo Wei had seen an early print of The Hand Of Death and was impressed by Chan’s skills.  Partly due to the cheap and fast production on New Fist Of Fury, but also due to the long studio interference and re-editing of The Hand Of Death, this film would end up being released a week before that one.

Bruce Lee could've eaten 101 Eggrolls!

Reprising their roles from the first film are Nora Miao and Han Ying-Chieh.  Miao actually gets more screentime than Jackie Chan, with the narrative mostly following her and her plight to return the Ching Wu school to its former glory.  The location has changed to Taiwan, but as it is also under the rule of the vile Japanese the plot mostly continues in the same vein this time around.  Miao is a surprisingly charismatic lead, but is stuck in an impressively limited role.  Still she does what she can and actually comes out looking probably better than anyone else in the cast, save for Jackie Chan.

Jackie Chan's Fists Of Fury aren't quite as fast...

Returning to films, Chan is a convincing actor even in limited roles like this one.  The movie itself leaves him little to no room to breathe up until near the very end.  But Jackie gives an intense performance, portraying his character not as a superhuman like Lee, but a regular man who learns his skills and uses them to rise up against his oppressors.  His fight scenes are not the greatest ever put to film, but he more than holds his own.  Later in his career, Jackie would attempt to emphasize his difference in style to Lee, but it’s clear he was attempting the same thing as early as this film.

You Remind Me Of Sammo For Some Reason...

That being said, the actual moments of combat are few and far between.  The fight scenes featuring actually skilled opponents only occur at the tail end of the film.  This means pretty much the entire movie drags, only picking up when Chan realizes he must learn kung fu to save the poor people living under the heel of the cruel foreign soldiers.  There is a series of battles towards the close of the picture that, while not on par with the bad-ass ones of the movie’s predecessor, are very well choreographed.  And even after that, immediately following the film’s high of sandwiched fight scenes and brutal killings, the movie is ended in a surprisingly abrupt and unsatisfying fashion.  It really has to be seen to be believed.

The cinematography isn’t bad here, and one wonders why so many of Lo Wei’s other films look so boring.  The zooms are kept to a minimum and the camera moves through hallways and around rooms fluidly, marking a change in style from the first film that is both welcome and interesting.  All of this is accompanied by a repetitive but fitting soundtrack that emphasizes heroic and horrific moments.  The only times it comes across as inappropriate are during Chan’s Fist Of Fury moment (where it sounds like something out of a sci-fi flick) and at the abrupt ending, where it seems a bit too cheery for what we’ve just witnessed.

Sorry Jackie, It Looks Like Surrounding Them Won't Work

Audiences at the time of New Fist Of Fury‘s release were mostly unimpressed.  It was seen as yet another tiresome Bruceploitation flick.  And to be fair, there is a bit of that going on here.  Notably, the first half hour pretty much revolves around the surviving cast members from Fist Of Fury carrying around Bruce Lee’s nunchukus like they’re some sort of holy relic, and Jackie Chan stealing them.  I know it’s meant to be some sort of “passing the torch” kind of thing, but it’s quite a stretch. The plot would have been better served without that nonsense, and the film’s running time (currently clocking in at nearly two hours) might’ve been saved as well.

Perhaps ironically, it would be Jackie Chan’s later success that pretty much marked an end to the genre.  So this film is interesting if only for its mark in Jackie Chan’s career.  As he continued to work for Lo Wei, he was given more opportunities to choreograph his own fights, and even work with more talented directors.  Unfortunately, this film was not one of those.  As a sequel to the Bruce Lee movie Fist Of Fury, it fails on several levels.  But it’s worth watching at least once.

[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]

Jackie Chan - A Lung

Jackie Chan is Ah Lung

Chan plays Lung as a naive pickpocket/no-good who possesses the ability to become a great kung fu fighter, but would rather not get involved.  Only after being nearly beaten to death, seeing multiple examples of the injustices incurred upon his fellow citizens, and the courage of Nora Miao and her crew, does he finally come around.  A nicely done montage and some ancient secrets later, and Jackie’s pretty much ready to kick some ass.  He’s not the best, but what’s important is that he stands up and fights as if he was.  So yeah, he’s quite bad-ass.

Nora Miao in Teeth Of Fury!

Nora Miao is Yuan Le-erh

No longer just a student, and certainly not a love interest, Miao shows up as something of a kung fu master in her own right.  She gets to kick ass quite a bit, but leaves most of the footwork to her students and friends.  Still Nora maintains a commanding presence here, and it’s easy to see why the others follow her and why Jackie Chan would fight for her.

[THE BODY COUNT: 37+]

There are a lot of kills in this one, with most of them scored by the bad guys.  The Japanese ambush and shoot around 20 people, while the main villain and his students kill several more.  Jackie Chan kills at least 3, but like the film’s antagonist, there are more beaten and possibly killed as well.  After Chan learns the Fist Of Fury, he may or may not be able to strike lethal blows at a whim.  As it is a kung fu flick, a lot of the deaths are from hand-to-hand combat, but other than the ones that get shot to death, there are also several that die from the slashing of samurai swords.  New Fist Of Fury is quite violent, with almost everyone dying with sprays of blood from their wounds or mouths.

[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]

The final boss battle is rather brilliant.  Not in the sense that the choreography is stunning (though it is pretty good), but because of its utilization of multiple weapons in a small space.  Jackie Chan kills the Japanese karate master’s daughter, which sparks the fight.  They go hand to hand, with the villain clawing at Jackie’s face and shredding his clothes (apparently his nails are very sharp).  From there it goes to a battle between sais and a three sectional rattan staff.  After returning to hand-to-hand, Jackie is knocked down some stairs where he defeats several more guys waiting in ambush with samurai swords.

But as Jackie lays on the ground, the film’s antagonist attempts to land a killing blow with one of his fallen comrade’s weapons.  Chan quickly grabs a sword with his feet (!) and impales the baddie, who falls back to his death.  That was awesome.

[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]

Jackie takes his shirt off quite a bit and seems like he couldn’t care less about the opposite sex, but that doesn’t necessarily make him gay.  The villain, however, hangs out in bath houses wearing nothing but a loincloth.  Still, the guy’s got a daughter, which proves he’s had sex with a woman at least once.

[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!

Continuing in the footsteps of the first movie, New Fist Of Fury has several strong female characters, two of which are martial arts masters in their own right.  Nora Miao, as I’ve mentioned previously, and also the lead bad guy’s daughter, who ends up being the sub-boss for the film.  With her crazy powerful legs and physics-defying leaping powers, she’s more than a worthy opponent.

Naturally, there’s a flipside to all of this.  Jackie Chan’s character’s mother is a whore.  Literally.  She remains loyal to her son and ex-husband, even warning the Ching Wu school of the approach of soldiers and paying for Jackie’s medical bills after he is beaten within an inch of his life and left in a ditch on the side of the road.  But she’s still a whore who sleeps not only with the evil Japanese, but it is insinuated that she lays with the main baddie as well.

[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]

With the Ching Wu’s school sign (and symbol of their individuality) destroyed and the locals left afraid and angry, it’s up to Jackie Chan to rouse the people to a fervor and partake in an uprising. After an impassioned speech, he has the sign remade.  Then he writes a symbol of his dedication on his bare chest in his own blood, hoists the new sign upon his shoulders like it was Jesus’s cross, and heads to the Ching Wu schoolgrounds finally ready to take his place in life and learn kung fu.  Nora Miao sees flashes of Bruce Lee, telling us she sees in Chan a new hero.

Jesus Chan

In an otherwise rather dull film, it’s a great scene and totally worth the price paid to see it.  At the time of the film’s release, it was seen as just another ploy to market off of the late superstar’s name, but in light of Jackie Chan’s further success in the genre I think it takes on another shape entirely.  Note the following dialog, which takes place between Nora and Jackie directly after this scene:

Miao: “Within you, I’ve found something.”

Chan: “Found something… in me?”

Miao: “The true spirit and meaning of the Ching Wu school.”

Chan then thanks Miao and attempts to kneel before her, but she presses him to stand up.  She then explains to everyone standing in awe at them that Jackie “is just like” Bruce Lee.

Still, Jackie Looks Slightly Chagrined

Miao: “His drive, his spirit.  So much like him.”  Then, to the late Lee she says: “Brother, you can rest in peace.  The school can carry on.  When there’s men like you, Ching Wu will live on!”

Leaving aside the fact that Lee’s character in the first film could probably care less about the school itself, this can only be seen as a metaphor.  In fact, his reckless Actions were the cause of the school’s destruction in the first place.  It’s clear the film makers weren’t talking about about the Ching Wu school, but rather the Hong Kong film industry and in particular the Kung Fu genre.  They weren’t placing Bruce Lee’s many imitators in high regard either.  No, they were almost outright announcing Jackie Chan’s arrival as the next Bruce Lee and true heir to his place as it’s most important star.  Seeing as how Chan would eventually become practically the biggest star in China, this speech actually kinda gives me chills.

So while the film ends up a lackluster drag, this moment is one of the most significant in all of Hong Kong cinema.  It’s certainly significant to Chan’s career.

[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]

Rising to the challenge of your rivals, accepting your place with destiny, and learning all kinds of awesome kung fu skills won’t stop you from dying when you get shot in the face.

Shot Through The Heart, Bruce Lee's To Blame!

[THE GIST OF JACKIE: 1 outta 5]

[  ] Breaks Into Someplace Or Escapes By Way Of Acrobatics
[  ] Has An Annoying Tag-Along Companion
[X] Makes The ‘OW!’ Face And/Or Rubs A Soar Spot
[  ] Performs A Ridiculously Dangerous Stunt
[  ] Uses A Random Object To Defend Himself

[THE CHECKLIST: 11 outta 25]

[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[  ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[  ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[  ] Factory/Warehouse
[  ] Giant Explosion(s)
[  ] Heavy Artillery
[  ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[  ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[  ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[  ] Manly Embrace(s)
[  ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[  ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[  ] Tis The Season
[  ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [a semi-remake called Fist Of Fury II]
[  ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice

Jackie Chan Is Stunned!

Oh come on!  This should’ve made me a star!

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