New Fist of Fury (1976)

Conversely, this one is much more story than fight; after a couple of early skirmishes the first decent fight only comes near the halfway point… speaking of which, if the film’s Wiki entry is right then it appears Hong Kong Legends’ print is actually the shorter re-release version. Having said which, I’m not going to complain, cos another half-hour of not much happening would’ve been difficult to swallow. Lo Wei had even less idea of what to do with Jackie Chan than he did Bruce Lee, and it shows here; in his first real starring role (his first actual supposed lead having been a film that apparently went unreleased for years), he just doesn’t seem to have much to actually *do*. The film is a follow-on from the Bruce Lee film, with Chan playing a young thief who’s not interested in learning martial arts until he Can’t Stand No More and takes up arms with the Jing Wu school against the hated Japanese; just as well he proves to be a fast learner in the fighting arts. Unfortunately, the bizarre lack of focus on the performer who’s supposed to be the star of the thing vitiates the film’s effectiveness, along with the off pacing and structure and, well, the basic lack of action and spark. Graduating from bit parts like the one he played in Hapkido, and supports like Hand of Death (made before but released just after this), Chan makes surprisingly little impression, but it’s not like he gets much of a chance; early on he already knew what audiences would discover only years later, i.e. that his real forte was action comedy rather than straight kung fu. Alas, Lo Wei was slower than anyone to recognise this and, with audiences tiring of “Brucesploitation” and ignoring this in droves, Chan was stuck for years with a string of Lo-managed flops that could’ve stifled his career and prevented him ever reaching stardom at all. New Fist of Fury, in the end, offers a historical insight for Chan fans into just where he started out, but not an awful lot more.

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