Azn Badger's Blog

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Thoughts On Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Donnie Yen’s butt.

That, my friends; is the one element of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen that I can honestly say I’ve never seen elsewhere.

That one goofy and slightly embarrassing little detail aside, Return of Chen Zhen is a bipolar mess of a film that can only be recommended to the most hardcore of Donnie Yen fans, I.E. me.

The basic plot is as follows:

Picking up after the conclusion of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) flees China for the French battlefield of WWI.

How he managed to survive charging headlong into a hail of gunfire after the events of Fist of Fury, is never explained.

During the war, one of Chen Zhen’s friends is shot dead, prompting him to go apeshit and kill a bunch of Germans via the combined techniques of parkour and shank-fu.

*Cue shitty rip-off of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme* What? You think I'm kidding?

Much violence and badassery ensues.

With that, Chen Zhen opts to assume his fallen friend’s identity as he sets off for Shanghai; declaring his homeland his new battlefield in fighting against Chinese oppression.

Why he decides to take out his aggression on the occupying Japanese (embodied by the decidedly flacid antagonist played by Kohata Ryu)  instead of the German forces that were directly responsible for his friend’s death, is not explained.

Once in China, Chen Zhen uses his resources to build himself a network of newsies, students, war vets, and cops to serve as his Shadow-esque eyes and ears.

He also invests in a pencil-thin fake mustache, seemingly just because pencil-thin mustaches are pimp.

"Hello, I'm Donnie Yen, and you sir; have just stumbled upon my secret Pimp Party. Prepare to be kicked in the face... Repeatedly."

How Chen Zhen acquires said resources to put together said network, and purchase said mustache, is never explained.

Now firmly established as a wealthy entrepreneur of sorts in Shanghai, Chen Zhen links up with fellow wealthy socialite and nightclub owner, Li Yutian (Anthony Wong) in order to spread his influence… At least that’s what I got out of it anyway.

Li’s nightclub also happens to play host to a foxy singer named Kiki (Shu Qi) whom Chen Zhen quickly becomes attracted to.

Donnie Yen would hit it, but y'know; supermodel wife...

The wikipedia entry for this movie states that Chen Zhen “is romantically attracted to Kiki,” however this is hardly evident in the film.

I know they’re Chinese, and they’re not good at that whole “love” thing, or y’know; talking to each other, but when 2 characters never so much as hold hands throughout a movie, I find it hard to believe they’re “romantically attracted” to each other.

Not only that, but their most intimate moment is actually when Chen Zhen threatens to kill her.

ROMANCE.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell; Kiki really ruined the movie for me.

Usually I kind of like Shu Qi’s bubbly cutesy-ness, as was the case in the delightfully, uh, adequate Jackie Chan flick, Gorgeous; but this time around her role was just plain ugly.

Her character’s arc, much like the flow of the entire film, is predictable; yet somehow all over the place all at the same time.

Not only that, she’s shitfaced for roughly 3 quarters of the film, making her a very difficult character to like.

I’m guessing her character was supposed to be tragic, but in the end; she just brought the whole movie down by needlessly slowing the pace with frequent, and boring dialogue scenes.

Speaking of boring dialogue scenes, Return of Chen Zhen has a fuck ton of ’em!

In most cases I can deal with inane and extraneous dialogue, but in the case of this movie; I actually found myself muttering the words:

“Jesus fuck man, I DON’T CARE.

Well okay, I didn’t exactly “mutter” those words so much as yell them, but you get the point.

Needless to say, Return of Chen Zhen has some writing issues… And pacing issues…  And it smells funny.

Now, when I said Return of Chen Zhen was a “bipolar” movie, I was of course speaking of it’s up and down pacing, specifically the jarring contrast between it’s action sequences, and the rest of the film.

In short:

Return of Chen Zhen has some pretty spankin’ fight sequences.

Heh heh, I like the part when the one dude gets kicked in the face. That was cool...

While nearly all of it is of the classic, Dynasty Warriors/1 man vs. the world style, most of it is well choreographed, and perhaps more importantly; competently shot.

Make no mistake, while the staging of the fights was indeed very good in Return of Chen Zhen, the editor, and perhaps more importantly; the cinematographer deserve a special pat on the back for their contributions.

While not so great a fight, this shot was pretty enough to redeem it.

Donnie Yen served as action choreographer for this one, and if there’s anything Donnie Yen is good at; it’s making himself look good.

While I heard reports that indicated an excessive use of stunt doubles for this film, I can honestly say that I didn’t notice them.

I’m assuming most of the parkour and stunt work was filmed using doubles, but everything that counts in my book, that is; the punching and kicking of people’s faces, was definitely all Yen.

Trust me, nobody throws kicks like Donnie Yen, nobody.

So… Where are his balls during all of this?

Speaking of which, from an action standpoint, Return of Chen Zhen serves as a sort of “best of” for Donnie Yen’s various trademark moves.

From the leaping spinning back kick above, to the cheesy windmill uppercuts of old, to even some of the joint locks and MMA style moves seen in SPL and Flashpoint; pretty much every cool thing Donnie Yen has done to someone throughout his career is featured, and ably performed in this movie at some point, with satisfyingly brutal results.

Though sadly there’s no breakdance fighting ala Mismatched Couples…

Kung Fu B-Boy Donnie Yen!

Getting back to the movie, seeing as most of the fight sequences in Return of Chen Zhen have Mr. Yen clothed in a Kato-esque mask and suit, the movements and strikes incorporated into the choreography bear a satisfying and altogether appropriate “superhero-y” quality to them.

That is to say:

When people get hit in this movie, they fly across the room and then some.

Yeah, that guy's goin' through a wall... Or 2.

Normally I’m not a fan of wirework in my kung fu movies, but their use in this film was largely used for the simple effect of slamming people into bookcases/windows/walls/platypuses, instead of the more fanciful bullshit as in Dragon Tiger Gate and other such films.

In all, Donnie Yen’s physical performance was nothing short of incredible in Return of Chen Zhen.

Given his relatively advanced age for the genre, (47) dreading the day when Donnie Yen suddenly gets old overnight and can’t perform as well he used to, but goddamnit; Father Time must owe him money or something, ’cause if anything he looked better in this movie than he did 2 years ago.

My guess is, the Ip Man movies actually served to smother Mr. Yen’s performances a bit over the past few years.

Wing Chun is a very practical, and straightforward fighting system; and one that is foreign to Donnie Yen’s martial talents.

As I mentioned earlier, Return of Chen Zhen was choreographed by Donnie Yen, for Donnie Yen, and in getting back to the basics, I think Mr. Yen showed us all that he’s still got it.

Anyway, enough cock-sucking.

In closing, I’d just like to point out a few little tidbits I felt needed mentioning:

Yasuaki Kurata and Shawn Yue have cameos in this movie.

They’re brief, and largely pointless; but it was fun seeing them nonetheless.

Would’ve really liked to have seen Kurata do a bit of fighting, seeing as he seemed relatively spry in Master of Thunder a few years ago, but oh well; take what you can get.

If you didn't see it already, then you probably shouldn't...

The vast majority of the sets for Return of Chen Zhen were very obviously recycled from the one used for Bodyguards and Assassins.

While it’s an incredible set, and definitely worth revisiting, there’s no denying that it was framed with a lot more love in Bodyguards and Assassins, and thusly comes across as kind of cheap looking this time around.

Also, if you’ve seen Bodyguards and Assassins, then it’s kind of surreal looking at little things like staircases and windows and remembering them, very clearly; from their use in that movie, which is peculiar being as Bodyguards and Assassins took place in Hong Kong, while Return of Chen Zhen is set in Shanghai.

I suppose it’s worth noting that, yes; the Japanese are the villains of this movie, and yes; they are portrayed as the most vile, baby boiling, dog kicking sons of bitches you’ve ever met.

Xenophobia has always been marketable in Chinese films, and nothing is ever gonna’ change that.

Regardless of how bad they make my people look, as long as Hong Kong keeps pumping out awesome movies about people kicking each other in the brain, I honestly don’t care.

Anyway, the plot sucked, the characters were boring, the dialogue was excessive and dull… but the fighting was pretty good.

If you love to see Donnie Yen do his thing, see it.

If not, then all you’re really missing is Donnie Yen’s butt.

Can you live without seeing Donnie Yen’s butt?

Filed under: Kung Fu, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Azn Badger’s Top 5 Songs That Keep Him From Stabbing People (Chinese Edition)

Yep, that’s right, we’re doin’ this again.

Give me a break will yah’, work was particularly brutal today…

Anyway, today we’re gonna’ be taking a look at the Top 5 Chinese Songs That Keep The Azn Badger From Stabbing People.

Unlike the previous 2 iterations of this list, this time around there’s an extra rule involved in my selection process.

Said rule would be:

No Jackie Chan.

Being as I have a fairly extensive collection of Jackie Chan songs, I think it would be best to save them for a list of their own at a future date.

Remind me to get back to this at a future date, as I genuinely like a lot of Jackie’s songs, and would love an opportunity to talk them up at some point.

Anyway, that being said; let’s get to the list:

5. Babylon In The Orient – Shanghai Restoration Project

You know this is gonna’ be a fucked up list when I start things off with a joke entry.

Babylon In The Orient, while sung in English (barely…) by a Chinese person; is the quintessential Azn song.

Mind you, that’s “Azn” not “Asian.”

The difference being defined by the amount of hair gel and “street” sensibilities present in the Asian person in question.

Consisting of little more than the words “holler” and a few extra tidbits here and there, the song captures the sound and feel of the Azn archetype so perfectly, that it’s tune springs to mind every time I see (or hear) a rice rocket or Asian guy dressed like a 300 lbs. Black guy.

Needless to say, Babylon In The Orient is a song that makes me laugh on account of how insanely Azn it is.

While it’s indeed a shitty song, the point of this list is that it consists of songs that keep me from stabbing people I.E. make me happy.

Babylon In The Orient makes me happy, though in a “so bad it’s good” sort of way.

In my book that counts for a lot.

4. Into The Future – Andy Lau

Ah, the “Great Un-Aging One,”  Andy Lau.

Andy Lau is like the Tom Cruise of China.

He’s been consistently playing handsome, energetic and suave young men throughout his entire career despite being about 10 years too old to do so for, well, over 10 years now.

Truth be told, I haven’t really seen many Andy Lau movies, but the man has one helluva’ a reputation; as is evident by my knowledge of him despite having little to no interest in his career.

That being said, I think it’s funny that #4 on this list comes from the soundtrack of a movie I haven’t seen, and is sung by an aging pop-star I barely know of.

That’s right folks, the kung fu movie obsessed blogger that is the Azn Badger has not seen Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer.

Know what else is fucked up?

I haven’t seen Kung Fu Hustle either!

Despite this, I stumbled across the theme song for Shaolin Soccer at some point, and while it doesn’t make me want to see the movie any more than before, it’s an energetic and fun song that always puts a smile on my face.

Someday I’ll see Stephen Chow’s movies, but until then; I’ll settle for listening to the soundtracks.

3. Shan Shan Re Ren Ai – Elva Hsiao

Elva Hsiao is yet another artist I ran across while perusing the now defunct Azn music forum I used to frequent.

Near as I can tell, she’s basically the Taiwanese equivalent to Madonna, only prettier and without the nasty gap in her teeth.

Oh yeah, and I’m guessing she doesn’t live out her days pretending she’s English like Madonna either.

Anyway, I only really ever heard 1 single of Elva Hsiao’s, called Diamond Candy.

Being as it was a single, there really wasn’t a whole lot to listen to, but the songs “More More More” and Shan Shan Re Ren Ai (whatever the fuck that means in Mandarin…) struck me as surprisingly catchy dance songs.

While “More More More” got brownie points from me on account of featuring Wu Jing in the music video, ultimately I felt Shan Shan Re Ren Ai was the better song.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up listening to more of Ms. Hsiao’s work in the future.

2. Huo Yuan Jia – Jay Chou

In case you haven’t noticed already, many of the songs on this Top 5 come from the soundtracks of Chinese movies.

Huo Yuan Jia just happens to be the theme song for the movie of the same name, otherwise known in the U.S. as Jet Li’s “Fearless.”

It also happens to be a song by the juggernaut of Taiwanese pop music, Jay Chou.

Unlike most Asian pop-idols, I happen to like Jay Chou.

He started out his career as a writer, and as a legitimately accomplished musician behind the scenes, he’s definitely earned his stripes.

Despite all that, the point is:

I like his sound, and he’s made more than a few songs I happen to like, so he’s cool in my book.

I can’t say I’m terribly excited about his recent forays into action cinema, most notably in the upcoming Green Hornet movie; however despite that, he’s still cool in my book…

… Provided he doesn’t make a fool of himself in that movie.

Anyway, Fearless was a pretty spankin’ movie, but the one memory I’m able to carry with me wherever I go, is the tune of this song.

Man, I wish American movies would have badass theme songs like this one…

1. A Man Ought To Be Strong – CHINESE PEOPLE

Really, how could a kung fu movie obsessed person like myself make a Chinese music list without throwing A Man Ought To Be Strong into the top spot?

As a Chinese folk song, as well as the theme of the seemingly endless Once Upon A Time In China film series, A Man Ought To Be Strong is, from my perspective, the spirit of China in song form.

While there are scores of versions of this song, (including 1 by Jackie Chan) this version, sung by a choir as opposed to a single vocalist, is easily my favorite.

As I said, this song basically symbolizes China in my eyes, making it all too appropriate that the best version of it be sung by a bunch of anonymous Chinese as opposed to some pop-star.

Anyway, this song is awesome.

Everyone should hear it at some point in their life, so if this was your first time, I’ll just say, “You’re welcome.”

Filed under: Kung Fu, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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