Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Part historical epic and part superhero tale, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) has Yen in the titular role leading a resistance to the Japanese occupation of China. In addition to leading the underground movement, Yen adopts the costume of “The Masked Warrior,” which looks suspiciously like Kato’s wardrobe from The Green Hornet, to fight the bad guys and their henchmen.
The fight scenes are beautifully shot and choreographed, and some credit must go to Yen, as he is the film’s action director. The climactic battle between Chen Zhen and the students of the karate dojo quotes from Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury/Chinese Connection (1972), including a steady stream of opponents and a thumping nunchaku.
Kung Fu Killer
In Kung Fu Killer (2014), Yen is an incarcerated ex-martial arts instructor who makes a plea for an early release to help catch a killer who is targeting martial artists. The killer is selecting experts in disciplines as they relate to the use of weapons: boxing, kicking, grappling, weapons and energy. Yen is again the action director for the film, and he creates exciting on-screen battles that are always interesting. The story provides some great twists and turns, and the overall theme of the “true meaning” of martial arts is an interesting one.
Of the three films mentioned here, Flashpoint (2007) is my favorite. Directed by Wilson Yip, director of the Ip Man series (Ip Man - 2008, Ip Man 2 - 2010, Ip Man 3 - 2015 and Ip Man 4: The Finale - 2019) and other pairings with Donnie Yen (Kill Zone - 2005, Dragon Tiger Gate - 2006). It is obvious that Yip and Yen make a great director/actor combination, not unlike Scorsese and DeNiro. The film pits Yen’s rogue cop “Ma” against a trio of ruthless gangster brothers.
With plenty of gunfights and ample punching and kicking, what sets the film apart is its use of grappling. The battle between Donnie Yen and Collin Chou is truly epic, and it expertly displays ground-grappling techniques that are rarely, if ever, used. Flashpoint is one of my favorite Donnie Yen fight films overall and definitely worth checking out.
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