Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (Jing mo fung wan: Chen Zhen) (2010)

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Released 2-Feb-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Deleted Scenes
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 102:06
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (80:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrew Lau
Studio
Distributor
Media Asia
Madman Entertainment
Starring Donnie Yen
Shu Qi
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
Shawn Yue
Huang Bo
Ryu Kohata
Karl Dominik
Chen Jiajia
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Chan Kwong-Wing


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen begins in 1917 where Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) is one of the 150,000 labourers sent to France by the Chinese government at assist the allied war effort in WWI. During a German attack that splits the French lines, Zhen, armed with only knives, shows his fighting abilities and saves his friends by taking out a German squad including machine gunners. After the battle, Zhen assumes the identity of Qi Tianyuan, a fallen comrade, for the return to China.

     Shanghai 1925. Concessions have been granted by the Chinese to western countries but the lion’s share has gone to Japan, which occupies part of the city. The armies of rival Chinese warlords fight in the countryside, the army of General Zeng is being supported by Japan as a means of keeping the Chinese divided. Chinese patriots in Shanghai oppose the Japanese but are powerless in the face of the occupying Japanese army, led by Colonel Takeshi Chikaraishi (Ryu Kohata).

     All nationalities, Japanese, British, American and Chinese come together for a good time at the club Casablanca, owned by Chinese tycoon Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and his business partner, the returned Qi Tianyuan. The club’s main attraction is the cabaret singer Kiki (Shu Qi) who takes a shine to Zhen. When the Japanese send out hit squads to kill their opponents, and the police led by Inspector Huang Haolong (Huang Bo) are powerless to stop them, Chen Zhen dons the mask and costume of the Masked Warrior in an attempt to protect the people and further Chinese nationalism. But the Japanese have a web of informers within the club Casablanca and the Chinese Nationalist movement. Who can Zhen trust? As the movement is betrayed and bodies pile up in the streets, Zhen moves closer to an ultimate showdown at the Hongkou Dojo with Colonel Chikaraishi.

     In Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (Jing mo fung wan: Chen Zhen) Donnie Yen plays a character already played by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury (1972), Jet Li in Fist of Legend (1994) and by Yen himself in six episodes of the 1995 Hong Kong TV series. Yen is a wonderful martial artist who deserves to be better known in the West, certainly by more than just martial arts film fans. He has gone head to head with Jet Li in arguably one of the greatest one-on-one kung fu sequences ever filmed in Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1993), returning to fight Jet Li again in Hero (2002). He remains the most prolific “go to” kung fu man in Chinese cinema with recent credits including Painted Skin (2008), Ip Man (2008), Bodyguards and Assassins (2009) and 14 Blades (2010), to name just a few. In Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen he doubles as action director and again is in excellent form. He has charisma on screen and does have acting talent, even if his scenes in this film with co-star Shu Qi don’t really sparkle. The action scenes are a mixture of stop and slow motion, wire work and sheer athleticism, with some of the jumps and stunts quite exhilarating. Perhaps the only pure kung fu sequence is the climax in the Japanese dojo, but I think it would be better if Donnie Yen left out the Brue Lee impressions and concentrated on being Donnie Yen. That is exciting enough.

     Outside of the energetic action sequences and some tongue in cheek moments, such as the “referencing” of the wonderful scene in Casablanca where the La Marseillaise is sung to drown out a German song (here the Japanese are the enemy), director Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) has some impressive sets to work with, such as the club Casablanca, and terrific Shanghai locations but in truth there is no character development from anyone. Liu Yutian’s move from tycoon to patriot is not developed, nor is policeman Huang or, more vitally, the character of Kiki. Others, such as Zhen’s sister, just appear and the role of Colonel Chikaraishi is to fight with Chen Zhen at the end, and little else. This means that the film tends to drag between action scenes, although Donnie Yen in action is always worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     It looks opulent. Colours throughout are accentuated and give a bright almost garish look, especially the scenes in the club Casablanca which are all lights, costumes and colour, although some of the city scapes and skylines are also colour enhanced. Contrast and brightness are stable, skin tones natural within the above enhanced colour palate. Blacks and shadow detail are exceptional. Grain is evident and I noticed some aliasing on clothing (52:34) and panels (86:45) but no film artefacts.

     English subtitles are in a yellow font. I did not notice any obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

     The layer change at 80:54 resulted in a tiny pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps (which included bits of Japanese and English as well). It is a good enveloping track; dialogue is clear and centred while ambient noise, gunshots and rain as well as music occur constantly in all speakers. The surrounds are frequently in use and there were some panning effects as bullets ricochet while the sub woofer supports the music and explosions.

     Lip synchronisation was occasionally off, presumably where Cantonese speakers have been dubbed into Mandarin.

     The original score by Chan Kwong Wing suited the action, and if you want to hear L’amour est un oiseau rebelled from Bizet’s Carmen sung in Mandarin, here is your chance.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Making of Legend of the Fist (15:12)

     Five short press kit sections, not without interest. They include comments by the director and actors and some information about the locations, sets, the cast and the action choreography with a lot of behind the scenes footage. I liked the bit of Donnie Yen playing the piano; not something one expects of a martial arts superstar!

Behind the Scenes (47:50)

     This is almost 50 minutes of on set footage without narration or interviews with on set audio, takes from different cameras, on set instructions from the director as well as Donnie Yen choreographing the fight scenes. It covers scenes in film order from the opening World War I sequence in France back to Shanghai. Some sections reveal interesting action stuff, including conditions on set, stunts that go wrong (and right) as well as Donnie Yen’s displeasure at stunt performers who get their positioning wrong. Interesting, but quite long and some linking narration would have been useful.

Deleted Scenes (11:22)

     Ten deleted scenes of various lengths – some from the club Casablanca, flashbacks, what looks like an alternative closing. Audio varies and is not always production standard, the scenes are not in film chronological order and there is no explanation or narration to link the scenes to the film. However at least one of them, occurring in the aftermath of the dojo battle, should be in the film as it ties up a couple of character arcs better than the film.

Teaser Trailer (1:09)

Theatrical Trailer (1:11)

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for other films from Madman: Grandmaster Ip Man (1:25), Ong Bak 3 (2:29), Raging Phoenix (1:52) and Merantau (2:55).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US edition is not due for release until 14 June 2011 and I cannot find any information about it’s specifications or extras. The Region 2 UK edition includes as extras the “behind the scenes” feature plus an interview with Donnie Yen but seems to miss out on the other extras included on the Region 4 version. The Region 3 Hong Kong release, based on reports, seems to have the same extra features as our version, but is listed as a cropped 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The Region 4 release is the one to get.

Summary

     Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen looks great and has some energetic action sequences courtesy of star / action director Donnie Yen but there is no real character development from anyone and the film tends to drag between action scenes although the sets, especially the club Casablanca and the Shanghai locations, are terrific. The video and audio are very good, the extras interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, April 07, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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