Dragon Fist (1979)

dragonfist

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In one of his final films with director Lo Wei, Jackie Chan unleashes some of his best serious-style fight choreography in this pretty decent classic kung fu film.

During a celebration for Master Chang San-Tai, arch nemesis Master Chong crashes and challenges Chang to a duel. When Chong beats Chang to a pulp, he celebrates his own victory while Master Chang dies. However, Chong gets the shock of a lifetime when he finds his wife hanged in her room. Long ago, Chang had been in a relationship with Chong’s wife before they married and Chong always had wanted revenge. Chong, feeling sorrow and remorse for his actions, decides to chop off his own leg to respect his departed wife.

In the meantime, Tang Hao-Yuan, Chang’s top student, arrives with Chang’s widow and daughter in an effort to seek revenge for the death of his master. However, upon learning what Chong has done, Chang’s widow forgives Chong and soon a new bond is formed. However, that bond will soon begin to be threatened.

Master Wei, an evil warlord, intends to prove he is the best in the land. However, he resorts to dirty tactics. When Chang’s widow is poisoned, Tang is shocked to learn that Wei is the only one with the antidote. Wei blackmails Tang to perform various “jobs” in exchange for the antidote. Will Wei be able to keep his promise or will he use Tang as just a pawn in his mission to prove he is more powerful than everyone?

When director Lo Wei signed on Jackie Chan in 1975, he had Chan star in a series of films that were complete bombs. The reason seemed to be is that Lo Wei was so bitter about his relationship with Bruce Lee after The Big Boss and Fist of Fury that he attempted to mold Chan as a new “Bruce Lee”-like hero. While films such as New Fist of Fury and Shaolin Wooden Men seemed to be more in comparison with Lee and the Shaw Brothers, this one had potential.

Of course with his collaborations with Lo Wei, Jackie Chan plays the big heroic fighter. He has no comic scenes here, but is able to show he can play a serious role when needed. He is seen wanting revenge only to learn that the man he was after knew of his wrongdoing and repented. He goes from being friends with his one-time nemesis to ultimately seeking revenge against a tyrant who is the only one capable of curing his master’s widow. It is this brand of twist in the story that delves from becoming a typical revenge film to one that is actually well done.

While many would see Lo Wei as quite the evil director, this is definitely one of his better films. It helps that Wang Chung-Pin’s screenplay brings out the twists and turns that have the themes of not just revenge, but romantic affairs, penance, and redemption. While the film ultimately becomes one of revenge, it is Chan’s amazing choreography that drives the film. Chan makes good use of his fellow cast, including Hsu Hsia (who would shine in Chan’s Seasonal hit films of the 70’s), the late Eagle Han, the ever popular James Tien, and that of legendary bad guy actor Yen Shi-Kwan.

Dragon Fist is definitely the better of the Lo-Chan collaborations, all due to the screenplay’s twist and turns not to mention Chan’s nice and crisp choreography.

WFG RATING: B

A Lo Wei Motion Picture (HK) Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Lo Wei. Producer: Hsu Li-Hwa. Writer: Wang Chung-Pin. Cinematography: Yim Jin-Hwan and Chen Jung-Shu. Editing: Vincent Leung.

Cast: Jackie Chan, Nora Miao, Yen Shi-Kwan, Pearl Lin, James Tien, Ou Yang Sha-Fei, Ko Keung, Wang Kuang-Yu, Hsu Hsia, Eagle Han, Peng Kong, Tsui Fat, Wong Yiu.

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