Directed by Gordon Chan, Fist Of Legend is a loose remake of Fist Of Fury in which Jet Li takes on the role of Chen Zhen, made popular in the 70's by Bruce Lee.
Set during the Japanese occupation, we first meet Chen Zhen as a student who learns of his master's death and returns to his old kung-fu school to pay his respects. Soon enough, he starts to suspect foul play and a rival martial arts school causes trouble over and over. Add to that the fact that Zhen's love interest is Japanese so not exactly popular with his peers and you've got yourself a busy little movie with plenty of tension but also plenty of fighting. Li may not be as expressive or charismatic of an actor as Bruce Lee but he knows his kung-fu and the fight scenes are impressive throughout the film. Gordon Chan not only makes them look fantastic but he successfully makes them feel like timeless, iconic set-pieces. The best may very well be the fight between Zhen and Fumio Funakochi (Yasuaki Kurata) as it's respectful and really intense, especially when they both start wearing blindfolds. That said, the final showdown with Billy Chau's intimidating General Fujita is also a treat.
Fist Of Legend does a lot of things that a lot of recent Chinese martial-arts films forget to do including creating characters you really care about, giving the film its own style and not over-simplifying the villains. The Japanese are not all cartoonish baddies here as Zhen's girlfriend Mitsuko (Shinobu Nakayama) is a genuinely likeable main character you want to see more of, the Ambassador is a pacifist and Funakochi is a wise badass I personally wouldn't mind seeing in his very own spin-off movie. There are obvious bad guys, of course, but the real enemy here seems to be closed-mindedness and how it can poison people, sometimes quite literally. While it doesn't outdo the original film and Li lacks the effortless charm that Bruce Lee had, Fist Of Legend is still a terrific martial arts film with lots of great characters, memorable moments and cool fighting.
Whether you prefer Fist Of Fury or not, it's hard to deny that this is a worthy retelling with a lot going for it. This is not only a visually stunning film but it's extremely entertaining and it remains one of Jet Li's best films.