There are some films that are just automatically acknowledged as martial arts cinema classics, no debate required. A Touch of Zen. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Five Deadly Venoms. Enter the Dragon. Police Story. To that list, I’d add Fist of Legend, a remake/reworking of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury that stars Jet Li as a young Chinese student living in Japan who must return home to avenge his master’s death — and in the process, unravel a web of racism, nationalism, and political conspiracy.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I actually prefer Fist of Legend to Fist of Fury; the story is more nuanced, the characters less black-and-white. Jet Li gives one of his best performance as the young Chen Zhen who must learn which ideals he’s willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Finally, Yuen Woo-ping’s action choreography is some of the best you’ll ever see in any martial arts film. (Indeed, Fist of Legend was one of the films that inspired the Wachowskis to hire Yuen to choreograph The Matrix’s martial arts action.)
Originally released in 1994, Fist of Legend has had several releases over the years, including domestic releases by Miramax and Dragon Dynasty that pissed off martial arts cinema fans with their mistranslations and edits. So it’s no small thing to see that 88 Films has announced a new 4K/Blu-ray release of Fist of Legend this year, just in time for the film’s 30th anniversary.
No specific details have been announced yet, but 88 Films has confirmed that their release will feature the full Hong Kong version of Fist of Legend. And if their previous releases are any indication (e.g., last year’s reissue of Jackie Chan’s Supercop), then I think Jet Li and martial arts cinema fans are going to be pretty happy.
88 Films’ reissue of Fist of Legend will be released on May 27, 2024; preorder your copy on Amazon.