After the foray into the chronicles of Chen Zhen, there is one other movie that i wanted to mention. Fists (plural!) of legend is a nice korean movie that suffers from a name that is way to close to the Jet Li movie.
(False advertising at its finest)
While the poster looks like any other fighting movie, the actual movie is one of most positive surprises in the genre i stumbled upon in the last few years. In fact, it has much more in common with movies like Rocky I or Warrior (2011).
The idea of the story is that there is a tv show named Fists of Legend. They seeks out middle-aged men that were well known brawlers or street fighters in their youth and lets them compete in an mma match for money.
(Our action hero)
The main protagonist Duk Kyu is a tired father that runs a noodle shop that is run down and going on broke. The story he tells himself is that he peaked in high school, where he was an ambitious boxer that didn't make it to the olympics. His daughter looks down on him and judges him like only korean female characters can (the look in the picture above really says it all).
The TV show producers try to recruit him and he meets his two best friends from high school again, one of them now in middle management and the other a smalltime member in an organized crime family.
The movie tells two stories at once, with the main plot being the slow regain of confidence and pride by the three over the course of the show and the other being the back story about how they became friends and drifted apart in high school.
(Same guys - in the 80s)
Story and characters are great, especially because the script really meshes the two time periods well, so that there are barely any lenghts.
The other great thing are the fights. While the fights in the tv shows are well shot and really show the dynamic of the one-on-one (fighters are pressured, exhaustion plays a role etc.), there are a few minor gripes. The grappling isn't as well thought out and filmed as the standup, but that's only because the action choreographer is just that good in the kick/punch-department.
What is really quite inspired is the decision to make the fights in the flashback story over the top and usually involve large groups on both sides, like in Crows Zero. The fights are incredibly fast and athletic, involving lots of high kicks etc. While i would usually critique this as breaking my fighting suspension of disbelief, it works here because it seems like we're seeing the nostalgic memories of the characters in which everything is larger than life.
(Trip down memory lane ... with a vengeance)
A great movie and really shows what can be done in terms of character development in a movie that very much centers around fighting.