Free Chen Zhen!

hong kong, 1972, mandarin


Fist of Fury

This movie is fun and silly and badass, and all the things you’d expect from a Bruce Lee picture. He’s righteous, he kicks ass, he’s a superhero. The plot is a bit over the top, and more than a bit ridiculous, but it doesn’t matter because the entire thing is just too much fun. I really enjoyed it.

Having said that, there are a couple things that are a bit deeper to explore. This film is about something, and that something is the way that imperial Japan treated China during the pre-war era. The way that the Japanese, from the Chinese perspective, looked down at their neighbors. Their racism and all of its effects.

This is perhaps especially useful for an American audience to see. Americans are incredibly good at assigning our own understanding of race to everywhere else in the world, over simplifying and downright falsifying situations we don’t actual understand by attempting to reduce them to a mere variation of our own experiences. It’s toxic. It’s crucial that we understand that things are more complicated than that, and this film can potentially introduce that idea to someone who hasn’t seen it before.

The other, more inward thing, is that a lot of the problems that happen in this film are directly a result of Lee’s character Chen Zhen being unwilling to let literally anyone in. He absolutely has to do everything completely on his own, to the point that it causes the destruction of everything he cares about, and ultimately himself. It’s hard to watch, even as it’s so fun to watch him do it. But, seriously, a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided if he would have just told anyone what he was doing and why.