When I saw the trailer for Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen and Donnie Yen jumped in front of the camera as the legendary Chen Zhen, I thought, “Awesome! Donnie Yen! Aww…That little black eye mask is kinda cheesy.”
There’s something about the little black mask that is kind of a litmus test for a movie (at least for me). In the 2011 Green Hornet, Jay Chou and Seth Rogen pulled the look off with no problem, and the movie was brilliantly funny. In Kill Bill, the Crazy 88 gang looked a little silly but still passed as entertaining, something that could be said about the movie as a whole. For Jet Li’s 1996 Black Mask, Li wears this black paper cardboard cut out that kept detracting from his amazing wushu skills, kind of the way the mediocre plot and over-all story-telling made the killer fight scenes not-so-killer.
Sadly, Yen’s Legend of the Fist comes off as corny as the mask looks on him. There’s some amazing cinematography and production, but the complex historical intrigue and drama just didn’t get woven together quite right. If you want to see Yen at his best, Ip Man and Ip Man 2 is the way to go. Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection and Jet Li’s Fist of Legend are more legendary than this new installment to the Chen Zhen film tradition. Although this movie had potential to be more than just another martial arts action film, it just fell short of making the cut. However, if you’re looking to see Donnie Yen repeatedly take out two foes with one jump kick, this is the film for you.