Legend of a Fighter Cover Hey, you! Bug-face! Have you ever watched the Bruce Lee film, 'Fist of Fury'? Yeah. You have? Good. Then I suggest you watch this inadvertent prequel made in 1982 that lasts for 89 minutes. It was Directed by Yuen Woo-ping; and Stars: Bryan Leung, Phillip Ko, Yuen Yat-choh, with Yasuaki Kurata. Hai-Yahhhhh!

Legend of a Fighter

Considering he's a great martial artist, you would have thought that Fok Yan-tai (Phillip Ko) would've taught his son some of the old family traditions.

But no. He does not. He mournfully declares that Fok Yuen-gap (Yuen Yat-choh) isn't up to practicing Kung Fu at all. And that is why he hires for his 'sickly little lad' a teacher to instruct him on some more academic pursuits instead.

However, unbeknown to him at the time, is that the teacher in question is none other than a very proficient Japanese fighter called Kong Ho-san (Yasuaki Kurata), who secretly spy's on Yan to learn his style of combat, whilst simultaneously teaching Fok how to defend himself in the process.    

Now this goes on for quite some time, folks, where Hong educates Fok in all manner of special trick's that'll keep him foot loose and not so fancy free. But then, one fateful day, both teacher and pupil inadvertently get into a bloody scrap with some rival hoodlums by the side of the sea. A scrap so bloody and so fateful, that it results in Hong travelling back to Japan to lay low for a while, leaving Fok up to his own devices, and learning how to kick ass over a period of many-many years.

Still. That's most probably why what next transpires all kicks off twelve years later when Fok is a changed man (Bryan Leung), primed and ready to face all of the challenges ahead of him. As a boxer gets swept of his feet - a Japanese contender isn't ready for a meet and great - Hong come out from the cold - plus please beware folks, a fist of fury can become very brave and bold. Hai-Yai!  

When I first heard about 'Legend of a Fighter', I have to admit that I was kind of intrigued with it being the prequel to the Bruce Lee classic, 'Fist of Fury'. Not only because 'that film' was supposed to be 'this film' conceptually. But also because I wanted to know the true story behind the previous story, as well as if it was up for the task at hand.

Legend of a Fighter Film Poster
It was. Foking hell it was. Here. Let me tell you why. (1) Despite the acting and the direction being slightly mannered in execution, I have to give kudos to everyone involved with this film for putting on one hell of a great show. The action was fantastic. The story was both enveloping and invoked great pathos. Plus all in all the entire package was a pure delight to follow. Good job. (2) On a structural level this story is a story of two halves. With the first half dedicated to young Fok learning how to fight against his stern fathers order. Where as the second half was dedicated to an older Fok building himself a legend over a period of time. That was a very nice way of approaching a story I thought. Very 'coming of age'. (3) The fighting exhibited in this movie it truly phenomenal. Honestly. There wasn't one single action set-piece that didn't make me gasp, 'How the f*ck did they do that?'. (4) Although I'm not entirely sure if this is historically accurate or not, I did like the idea that Fok's martial arts teacher was a Japanese man -- and not a Chinese man -- because this notion adds an additional ironic layer to both this film and it's predecessor. (5) Another aspect about this flick I thought was very ironic, was how certain scenes in it mirrored 'Fist of Fury' in style and in essence. Of course I'm referring to those segments where the character of Fok almost seems to imitate Bruce's 'Fury' character in poise and stature. With the trembling fists. With the mannered acting style. And with all those little Lee-isums that are truly one hundred percent Bruce. (6) Oh! While I'm on the subject of Mister Lee, I'm sure that any of his fans could tell that the scene about water was a little nod and a little wink to his grand mythos. Nice. (7) Was that skinny little chap with the funny speaking voice supposed to be the interpreter from the first film? I hope so. If not, well, never mind, huh? (8) I did get a kick out of how Fok inadvertently learned all of those 'supplementary' fighting methods in the latter half of this flick, plus how he used them during his final fight battle. Again. Very Bruce Lee.

Bryan Leung in Legend of a Fighter

Legend Of A Fighter Poster
Hey! I tell you what, folks. While I'm in a bullet point mood, let's have some bullet-point filmic-facts. (1) 'Seasonal Films' first released this production on the 12th of February, 1982, and clawed back $1.8 million Hong Kong dollars at the Cantonese box office. (2) Before he directed this film, Yuen Woo-ping directed 'Game of Death 2' with Yuen Biao, and afterwards, he directed 'Drunken Tai Chi' with Donnie Yen. (3) Jing Wong, who was one of the scriptwriters assigned to this flick, also penned the Sammo Hung classic, 'Magnificent Butcher'. (4) Bearing in mind he was very good in this movie, the actor who plays Fok in it, Bryan Leung, has had no formal marital arts training, yet he does have hyper-extendable fingers. (5) The American version of this project was labelled 'Secret Master', although in Asian territories it was named after the man this movie is all about. 'Fok Yuen Gap' in Cantonese, and 'Huo Yuan-Jia' in Mandarin. (6) The tag-line used to promote this picture, was, 'The legend that inspired Bruce Lee's "Fist of Fury"'. (7) Now if you've taken into consideration the previous two tit-bits, please let me just add that these two statements are very-very true. The real Fok was a martial artists and co-founder of the 'Chin Woo Athletic Association' based in Shanghai. He was born in Jinghai County, Tianjin, on the 18th of January, 1868, and died of arsenic poisoning on the 9th of August, 1910. Please note though: It is unclear if his passing was due to malicious intent or herbal remedy. (8) According to legend, Fok rose to prominence because he beat a Russian wrestler and an English boxer in two challenge matches posed to him between 1902 and 1910.

Action in Legend of a Fighter

Overall 'Legend of a Fighter' is one cracking film to watch. The action was out of this world. The story was poignant yet timely. Plus I would highly recommend it to all you Bruce Lee fans and admirers of the original picture.

Nuff said.