Fist of Fury 1991


This early Stephen Chow vehicle came out only a year after his first major comedic success (All for the Winner) and it seems to show a less sure hand than he was to display in his future films. The film contains a certain scattershot approach that works on occasion, but often left me feeling more bemused than amused. Many of his trademark comic devices are present – film parodies (God of Gamblers, Rocky, Fist of Fury, A Better Tomorrow), the underdog makes good, the innocent from the sticks, the quizzical stare - but they are not quite as finely tuned as they were to become. Still, there are certainly a number of laughs contained within.
Stephen Chow, Kenny Bee, Cheung Man, Vincent Wan
Chow shows up in HK from the Mainland with no particular skills besides an incredibly powerful right arm that can lift coke machines and knock people back some thirty feet. Knowing the destructive power of this arm though, he avoids using it unless absolutely forced to. He loses the address of his relative and then has his luggage stolen by petty thief, Kenny Bee. Chow gives chase and the two of them indulge in a terrifically amusing bullet ballet - except instead of bullets they are launching gobs of spit at one another.

Eventually, they make amends, room together and try to make good in HK. The only real opportunity is for Chow to enter into a martial arts contest that has a prize of $10MM - but a martial arts school has to sponsor him. So he first joins one run by Shing Fui On who turns out to be nothing more than a crook. Later though Chow saves a legitimate master (Corey Yuen Kwai) from being attacked and he is taken on as a student of Corey’s. Corey's daughter is Cheung Man (one of Chow's favorite co-stars) and the two are attracted to one another immediately. The adopted son, Vincent Wan, is far from pleased.

Some other amusing routines come along the way - as a training exercise Chow has to go in and rob a bank - and is given the note to show the tellers by his master. Chow thinks this is a little odd, but goes through with it - and unbeknown to him the note reads "I want to steal your virginity". The female tellers keep telling him they don't have it until he gets to a portly lady who is only to happy to hand it over to him. Chow is later congratulated for being the only thief to have stolen "virtue".

Chow, Corey Yuen and Shing Fui On
Finally the contest arrives and is played out well - but actually gets fairly serious for the last twenty minutes of the film - unlike his very funny bout in Love on Delivery. The film is certainly amenable and charming but with fewer laughs than one might expect from a Stephen Chow film.

My rating for this film: 6.0



Reviewed by Yves Gendron

Back in 1990, ALL FOR THE WINNER was the box-office champion of that year and made Steven Chow a star. Made the following year, FIST OF FURY 91, re-teamed Chow with the makers of that film: writer-co- director Jeff Lau, and action choreographer, co-director and supporting actor Corey Yuen. The film is a basic rehash of AFTW, a mainland country bumpkin gifted with some supernatural gifts makes it big in Hong Kong. The big difference here is that instead of being gifted in gambling, Chow has got a super-powerful right arm and also his sidekick is not Chow regular, Ng Man Tat (although he does make a cameo), but singer comedian Kenny Bee as a shaggy- looking scoundrel who shows himself to be just as good at playing the wacky comic foil as old Uncle Tat.

Once having hooked-up together and lived through a series of misadventures, the pair end-up at a martial art school headed by Corey Yuen. Jealous of the attention both the master and his daughter (played by Chow’s usual squeeze Cheung Man) give the young hick, the school’s evil top pupil manages to frame him and have him expelled. As a international martial art competition starts soon afterwards, Chow enlists after some training by a peculiar bunch of teachers with odd methods leading to a fateful encounter with the old master, a stunning dramatic twist and a settling of accounts with the treacherous disciple.

FIST OF FURY 91 is not as good as AFTW, not by a long shot. Besides the rehash of plot, the film suffers from a plot and some gags that truly never quite gel entirely. This said, this reviewer must admit that part of the problem might come with the fact that the viewed copy was in dubbed mandarin language, with partially visible subtitles half the time and a rather so so image quality. This must surely have affected the viewing experience. Still the second half of the movie is more gripping than the first, and a lot of the comedy does indeed work: like a spitting duel, an "I want to take your virginity" hold-up, a typical Chow defecation related sticking odour joke and naturally many gags revolving around a not so orthodox approach for martial arts fighting and training. As mentioned before, in it's final act the film takes a surprising dramatic turn before turning goofy again.

The film title is a reference of course to the Bruce Lee classic FIST OF FURY. One could then expect that the film is a send-up of the original, but actually besides Chow doing a Bruce Lee imitation as he frequently did in his early days, it contents itself to merely parody one famous scene when Chow confronts a giant Japanese thug coming to the school with a mocking Chinese translator underling. Besides that, the link between the two movies is quite tenuous. Other film references include ROCKY and RAGING BULL. Indeed FIST OF FURY reproduces shot by shot the bloody beating Robert de Niro takes in the ring at the movie climax. Interestingly enough, the scene is not played for laughs even though the outrageous nature of the original scene might have called for it. Quite the contrary, for Chow just like De Niro in RAGING BULL lets himself be reduced to a bloody pulp as punishment for a perceived sin. Only after the fighting does it take on a goofier tone.

Unquestionably FIST OF FURY is far from being Chow’s best, it is second level material made to capitalize on Chow’s newfound popularity at the time. Still the film does work to a large degree with Chow in good shape.

FIST OF FURY 91was followed up by a sequel, FIST OF FURY 91 II, in which Hong Kong cinema Grande Dame Josephine Siao Fong Fong is added to the cast. Originally the two films were meant as one but too much footage was taken so it had to be split into two separate films. Josephine makes only a cameo in this film. Furthermore writer/director Jeff Lau appears to have grown fond of Kenny Bee’s earthy charming scoundrel for he would reuse the character again in Top Bet (1991), the sequel to All For the Winner.

My rating for the film: 5.0


DVD Information:

Distributed by Mei Ah

The transfer is very nice - clean and crisp.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

The subtitles with 3 choices:  Chinese, English, Nil

9 Chapters

It has it's own trailer plus previews for Spacked Out.

The subs are fairly easy to read.