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Fist of Fury

Year: 1972
Studio: Golden Harvest
Director: Wei Lo
Writer: Wei Lo
Cast: Bruce Lee

Not being as old as Tarantino I wasn't around for the initial rush of underground cult fervour for Hong Kong chop socky so was never a Bruce Lee fan. But after Scott Lee's depiction of him in Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story and especially after Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, the (apparently unfair) impression I have of him is as a bit of a puffed up blowhard.

So it was interesting that one of the themes of this movie is about how, in the real world, being a macho man who wants to solve all your problems with your fists actually gets you very little.

When kung fu prodigy Chen Zhen (Lee) comes back to his martial arts school to mourn and avenge the death of the senior teacher and his former master, he just wants bloodshed and violence. But the moderate leaders of the school know the old axiom about an eye for an eye and try not to antagonise the Japanese karate school thugs who want to encroach on the school's territory.

When everyone's gathered in the grand hall to mourn their master, the Japanese even show up with a sign proclaiming Chinese as weaklings, taunting them to hang it up on their walls. A bit of shoving ensues before the senior staff tamp down the anger and cast the Japanese out.

But Chen wants to take them apart for their insult, especially when he starts to suspect his former teacher may have been murdered. He takes the sign and steals away by himself to the karate school, demolishing everyone inside and exacting his revenge.

So when the Japanese converge on the school again, threatening to destroy it and kill everyone unless they hand Chen over, he realises how much trouble he's caused and has to go on the run.

The stakes are high – give up their best fighter or face annihilation at the hands of the vengeful Japanese, led by their fearsome boss Suzuki. Violence escalates until it leads to some genuinely dark and disturbing scenes like the victims Chen has hunted down on his quest to solve the murder of his master, leaving them hanging on neighbourhood streetlights.

It also gets a little big political, referencing Shanghai society in the early 1900s when it's set, where Chinese were seen as little better than dogs in their own city. The local Chinese police inspector wants to keep the peace and be loyal to his countrymen as far as he can, but with Chen roaming around every night leaving bodies in his wake he can only turn a blind eye so far, especially as Suzuki is in cahoots with with senior Japanese constabulary and the embassy.

But these kinds of movies are a bit like porn. The staging, acting and dialogue are primary school-level and while there is a story, it's only there to take things from one set piece to the next, but if you're only here for the action, Lee delivers, sizing up his opponents with his signature style of making noises like a wounded possum while he does so.

Released in some parts of the world as The Chinese Connection, and a young, uncredited Jackie Chan appears as a student.

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