Reviews

Fist Of Fury (Platinum Edition)

4

Yeah. We thought that too - "Not another Brucie redux." But compared to the slender 'Collector's Edition', this is a well-crafted two-discer with a glossy rack of extra extras (gotta love that interview with Lee's hairdresser). You need to part with another two tenners of your hard-earned for two big reasons: the high-def transfer that sparkles the crusty photography up to something that looks like it was shot last week and the commentary from Hong Kong movie mentalist Bey Logan, which focuses on the ultra-hardcore Lee loons who already think they know all there is to know about his most defining film. We're briefed on Cantonese phrasing, cultural quirks, the CV of pretty much every character actor who bobs into shot... It's wise and well-drilled, but there's sadly no option to revert to Logan's original non-specialist blab.

Lee was an extraordinary talent who met a premature and depressingly ordinary end. Like most of his films, Fist Of Fury is hardly a shining example of technical excellence (hammy acting, rickety camerawork, rocky edits, schlocky script). But it showcases his brief, brilliant career at the point of its brightest flaring - just before he transcended lowly actor status to become the suicidally committed, all-round martial arts renaissance man (actor, writer, fight-coordinator, producer, director).

After all this time, his screen presence is startling. Everything orbits around him... Actually, scratch that. He's more like an all-consuming black hole, with co-actors constantly battling to stand their ground beside his roaring influence. These days we're used to cartoonish action supermen, but how breathless it must have been, back in 1972, to see a 5'7" man lay on such casual devastation with no more than fists, feet and improvised weapon (the grisly and graceful, BBFC-baiting nunchaku sequence has been fully restored).

Fist Of Fury still kicks because, set in the '30s, it feels like a gauntlet slapped down at the feet of historical oppressors. Imagine the cheers in Hong Kong cinemas when Lee swaggered into the Japanese dojo, smashed the taunting 'Sick Man Of Asia' banner and single-handedly laid waste to every bolshy body in the place. The jabbing finger, the growl at the groaning defeated... "We are not sick men!" With his race thought of as skinny, unathletic and cowed, Lee wasn't only a focus for Chinese dignity. He was a universal poster-boy for the gawky and the bullied.

So, at last, Lee's greatest 90-odd minutes scrubbed up as part of a definitive DVD package. Until the Ultimate 35th-Anniversary-Of-His-Death Edition in 2008, of course.

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      Nov 3rd 2010, 14:09

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