Fist of Fury
(TV Series) (Lead/Action Director)
Deemed ATV’s most successful action series, Fury is Yen’s homage to his real life hero Bruce Lee, inspired by Lee’s 1973 film The Chinese Boxer (not to be confused with Lee’s movie Fists of Fury). Yen plays the Lee role of Chen Jun, and became so identified with the character by Asian audiences that they still call him Chen Jun when they recognize him in public. With 30 episodes, the series fleshes out the backstory of characters in the Lee movie, plus adds more. It also recreates the classic scenes from the original, and more astonishingly, captures its spirit.
Chen Jun comes to Japanese-occupied Shanghai with his young sister. There, he gets by taking on numerous jobs, but not without clashing with the son of the local Chinese crime boss. Chen Jun also notices the numerous Chinese martial arts schools and their respective masters. Meantime, his sister is befriended by a Japanese nurse, the daughter of the official responsible for administering the region. Chen Jun and the nurse fall in love, despite their opposing allegiances. Further complications ensue when her father, following orders, enlists her intended, a Japanese officer, in secret society work against the Chinese martial arts schools. Meantime, working as a rickshaw driver and teaching himself Hung Gar Kung Fu from a book, Chen Jun saves the crime boss’ girlfriend, but passes on becoming a member of the triad. Instead, after some conflict, he joins one of the martial arts schools, the legendary Ching Wu Academy, also famous for its activity in the Chinese underground against the Japanese. Chen Jun becomes the special student of the master, Huo Yuan-chia (Eddie Ko), equally famous as a martial arts master and on a par with Wong Fei-hung in real life. Chen Jun even surpasses the school’s senior member in his martial arts skills. The master is slowly poisoned, and weakening, dies in a fight with the Japanese officer. Eventually the treachery is found out and Chen Jun seeks justice for his master’s murder. Chen Jun, learning from his master, stands for the way of the martial arts, and brings together numerous forces that unite against the occupiers. All the good characters die by story’s end, but also many of the villains, including the crime boss’ son, who collaborates with the Japanese and kills his own father.
The fight scenes are amazing. Yen begins by drawing from traditional martial arts style action—linear blocking and movement with all the moves seen, as in the series’ opening sequence in which the Chinese martial art schools’ masters are gathered together to discuss their situation. However, as Chen Jun develops his martial arts skills, the action becomes more and more daring and experimental. In an innovative fight with a villain played by Hung Yan-yan, for example, Yen draws inspiration from Dragon Ball and Natural Born Killers. Another outstanding and inventive scene takes place during the Japanese dojo fight in which Chen Jun returns the signboard delivered by the Japanese to his school (the signboard is an insult, describing the Chinese as ‘the sick men of Asia.’) In this version of the story, the Japanese are supported by the crime boss’ son, who delivers it to the Ching Wu Academy.
Yen knew he had to include this classic sequence from Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection, and in so doing, he shot the fight from an aerial view, a top shot, just as Lee had. A shirtless Chen Jun stands out, encircled by the Japanese fighters and taking on all comers. However, Yen improvised the scene, using not only his own team, but numerous enthusiastic extras who were instructed only to come in at him with all they had. Thus, through a combination of camera, energy, music, and Yen’s martial arts abilities, the sequence is daring and immediate, again demonstrating Yen’s ability to improvise with kung fu, despite the rigid forms training of classical Chinese martial arts. In another amazing scene, Chen Jun takes on a Japanese swordsman, himself using nunchakus in free flow movements, showing the genius of Yen’s action choreography. Also quoted from Lee’s movie is the dramatic graveside scene in which Chen Jun mourns his master; Yen’s scene occurs in the pouring rain, as Chen Jun falls to the grave and claws in anguish at the unearthed clay. It’s a gut-wrenching, emotional moment. While the fight sequences are inventive and exhilarating, for those who want drama and romance, this is the one. It’s a series you hate to see end.
Cast: Donnie Yen, Eddie Ko, Man Yi-man, Hung Yan-yan