Hong Kong Cinema

Fist of Fury TV (1995)

  • Made: 1995
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 2 PAL
  • Release Date: 22 Aug 2005
  • Company: Tai Seng UK
  • Length: 120 minutes
  • Picture: Full Screen
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Language: Cantonese and English Audio
  • Extras: Audio Commentaries from Donnie Yen and Robin Shou, Making Of featurette, trailers, filmography
  • Classification: 15


Benny Chan, Leung Yun-chuen, Wong Gum-miu, Cheng Wai-man, Wu Ming-hoi, Tang Mau-sing


Donnie Yen, Lau Chi-Wing, Eddy Ko, Joey Man, Bey Logan

Fist of Fury (1995) comes as an edited down version of Donnie Yen's hugely popular TV series in Hong Kong. Originally developed as a thirty episode series from ATV, this has been repackaged by Tai Seng on both sides of the Atlantic. The first fifteen episodes have been marketed as a prequel 'Fist of Fury - Sworn Revenge' and the following fifteen episodes as 'Fist of Fury'. This Tai Seng release brings the much talked about TV series to UK audiences for the first time. Starring and choreographed by Donnie Yen, this series co-stars HK veteran Eddy Ko (Avenging Eagle, Hitman in the Hand of the Buddha).

The thirty episode series is a remake of Lo Wei's 1972 smash hit Fist of Fury (Chinese Connection) starring the legendary Bruce Lee. The entire series was originally released as Jing Wu Men in reference to the martial arts school at the heart of this story. This hugely popular tale of Chen Jun's personal struggle against colonial oppression has been retold many times before with mixed success. There was Lo Wei's terrible New Fist of Fury starring Jackie Chan in the late seventies, followed by Stephen Chow's hilarious Fist of Fury 1991 and Jet Li's Fist of Legend in 1994. Although the latter is regarded as a genre classic in the West, it fared poorly at the box office for a Jet Li film and I am sure Donnie was confident that his work would reach greater heights!


After the success of TV's Kung Fu Master in 1994, Donnie Yen needed little persuasion to come back for a retelling of Fist of Fury in the following year. Given a budget of HK $45m (£3.2m) Donnie set about constructing a thirty episode epic that looked at the life and times of kung fu legend Fok Yuen Gaap (Eddy Ko) and his tempestuous student Chen Jun (Donnie Yen). The first fifteen episodes (Sworn Revenge) focus on Chen's move to Shanghai and becoming the student of Fok Yuen Gaap. The latter fifteen (Fist of Fury) explore Japanese colonial treachery and Chen Jun's quest for revenge after the murder of his master. This second segment is directly derived from Lo Wei's Fist of Fury and many of the scenes are directly lifted from the original for this TV production. Donnie attempts to capture the mannerisms and spirit of the screen legend in an enjoyable interpretation of Bruce Lee's martial arts character.

Without any massive spoilers, Fist of Fury tells the story of Chen Jun standing up against Japanese oppression. This TV version contains the basic premise of the original but puts more emphasis on telling the story prior to Chen Jun's quest for revenge. We learn how Fok Yuen Gaap's martial arts philosophy was behind uniting various kung fu styles to stand firm against the Japanese colonial force. In a trick taken from Fist of Legend, this is all complicated further by Donnie falling in love with a Japanese official's daughter (Joey Man). After the Japanese poison Fok Yuen Gaap and defeat him in combat, Chen Jun embarks on a bloody quest for revenge to show that the Chinese are not the sick men of Asia!


Before considering elements such as acting, directing, choreography, editing etc, it is worth remembering what is on offer here. This is a fifteen episode series condensed into two hours. The narrative suffers as you might expect from this significant editing. The full screen video feel takes the production away from a typical film and into the realm of soap opera. All of this must be linked to the significant timescale and budget constraints placed on the production team! (I'm sure luminous green fishing nets were not used eighty years ago!) What Tai Seng are offering here are the edited highlights of the TV series and predictably this largely comprises the action scenes and any major character / plot development.

Much of the action is taken scene-for-scene from the original Fist of Fury, including the seminal dojo fight. He even goes as far as utilising the bird eye's view camera shot within the dojo. This would normally seem like plagiarism but Donnie's hunger to recreate Bruce Lee on screen ensures that it feels more like homage to the great. Donnie does a good turn at Bruce Lee's trademark fighting style, but there is a reliance on choppy editing and under-cranking to bring the sequences together. As Donnie bemoans on the audio commentary, this was due to the lack of strong extras as opponents. To counter this, Donnie improvised a great number of the sequences which ensures a frenetic, if slightly disjointed, pace to the action. Many of the fights actually feature either Donnie or his opponent performing moves at the camera, rather than contact between two protagonists, which once again suggest that the cast weren't up to highly choreographed sequences. Donnie also brings some personal touches to the mix with ladders fights and wet cloths (see Once Upon A Time in China 2)!

The action never reaches the heights previously reached by the likes of Bruce Lee or Jet Li in their respective offerings, but it is also easy to see why this was hugely popular upon its release. You need to suspend your belief at points and overlook obvious criticisms that could be leveled at this production. If you consider that this is meant to entertain rather than purely be an aesthetic display of martial arts it is a much easier pill to swallow. I think this point is especially relevant when Donnie fights Bey Logan near the end, for this encounter I offer no excuses in their defence.


The Tai Seng UK disc uses the same remastered full screen print as the US edition, with DD5.1 audio tracks in both Cantonese and English. As you can see from the screenshots, the picture is grainy and low in definition, which is no surprise for a Hong Kong television production. This is There are several significant extras including two separate audio commentaries from Donnie Yen and Robin Shou (Mortal Kombat) and a Making Of featurette. There are also some basic extras such as chapter select, trailers and filmographies. Tai Seng UK have wisely improved the DVD design from the tacky layout on the US release.


It would be easy to take some pot shots at Fist of Fury for its production values and under-cranked action. Similarly, it would be easy to reprimand Tai Seng for packing fifteen episodes into two hours. Normally I am the first to curse companies for editing down movies for Western audiences, but this case is different from the normal twenty minute crop done by the likes of Miramax, Buena Vista etc. I doubt the full series would have been a genuine success in the West and this edited version gives viewers a flavour of Donnie's work whilst still working within the commercial realities of distribution. Should this prove popular, then perhaps we can expect the full version to be driven by consumer lobbying and demand. There will no doubt be people angered by such a perspective, but in the same vain Shogun Assassin has introduced many fans to the Lone Wolf and Cub series and the Samurai genre.

Fist of Fury remains an easy target for critics, but it is also a captivating look into Donnie Yen's mid-nineties action work. It was the unprecedented domestic success that gave Donnie the credibility and backing to move onto directing slots in works such as Legend of the Wolf and Ballistic Kiss before moving onto Western productions such as Highlander: Endgame, Codename Puma and Blade 2. This is not a consummate piece of martial arts cinema, but it is typical of a Hong Kong production. It has energy and character even if the execution is sometimes lacking.