The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“Now you listen to me. I’ll only say this once. We are not sick men.”
My experience with kung fu and martial arts movies is pretty limited. My experience with Bruce Lee movies is limited to just one, Enter the Dragon. About which I said, “This seems to be the blueprint of every rip off and piss-take I’ve ever seen. And for all its cheesiness, I totally understand its place as genre classic.” So while I claimed to “get it”, it’s impact obviously didn’t really stick with me, because that review is two years old, and I only just got around to watching my second Bruce Lee picture, Fist of Fury.
In turn of the 20th century Shanghai, Chen (Lee) returns home to his martial arts school where the funeral for his teacher is in progress. Apparently dying from pneumonia, Chen finds that hard to believe and suspects foul play. His suspicions only grow when students from a rival Japanese martial arts school pay a visit to deliver a derogatory sign and try to pick a fight. Chen almost takes the bait, but his fellow students remind him that their deceased master taught them martial arts only for fitness, not for fighting.
That night, Chen can’t help himself and he invades the Japanese school, fighting every student at once and coming out victorious. He also soon learns that his suspicions are founded, the Japanese school planted spies in Chen’s school to learn their mysterious Fist of Fury style of fighting. And it was those spies who poisoned Chen’s master. Now nothing will stand in the way of Chen’s revenge.
Watching Fist of Fury, I have to assume it was bit of a test to see if American audiences would go for a Bruce Lee movie. America already knew Lee from The Green Lantern TV series, but this seems like it was economical way to see what western audiences would think, before diving right in with something much more westernised, like Enter the Dragon. Where Dragon had plenty of roles for American actors and an espionage heavy spy story, as was the fashion of the time, Fist of Fury is nothing more than a paper thin plot that offers plenty of excuses for extended fight scenes. And when the fight scenes are this good, a movie can totally get away with little to no plot.
Again, like watching Enter the Dragon, while I was in it, I really dug Fist of Fury and wondered why I don’t watch more kung fu, classic or contemporary. But it’s a very immediate, short term satisfaction. Because even as I write this, only an hour or two after watching it, a lot of that enthusiasm has gone. I can say it’s a pretty safe bet that while I really enjoyed Fist of Fury, I probably won’t be watching another kung fu movie for a while.