With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

FISTS OF LEGEND available today

CJ Entertainment
Fists of Legend
Directed by KANG Woo-suk
Screenplay by JANG Min-seok
South Korea, 2013, 155 minutes

In the mood for some mixed martial arts mayhem with some street fighting slugfests thrown in for good measure? Then you're in luck because South Korea's Fists of Legend becomes available today on Blu-ray, and DVD from CJ Entertainment. I watched the Blu-ray version.

LIM Deok-kyu outside his modest noodle shop

Based on a popular webtoon of the same title written by LEE Jong-gyu and illustrated by LEE Yoon-gyun, the film centers on LIM Deok-kyu (HWANG Jung-min), the 43 year old owner of a noodle shop named after his teen-aged daughter Soo-bin. In 1987 LIM was a high school student training as a boxer and hoping to compete in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. He also had a reputation as a legendary street fighter for taking on and defeating several students from a rival high school.

Ms. HONG, producer of a mixed martial arts reality TV show

Ms. Hong (LEE Yo-won) is the producer of a mixed martial arts reality TV show that pits middle aged former fighting legends like LIM against one another. She relentlessly courts LIM, who eventually decides to participate. This brings him back in contact with two friends and formal rivals from the past. LEE  Sang-hoon (YOO Jun-sang), like LIM, attended Sadang High School. He is now a manager in the Chung-myung group, a huge corporation run by SONG Jin-ho (JUNG Woong-in), whose grandfather founded the company. SHIN Jae-seok (YOON Je-moon) attended South Seoul High, a rival school, but eventually became friends with LIM and LEE. He's a member of a criminal gang.

A police officer releases young LIM, SHIN and LEE after a confrontation with some gang members

The film shifts back and forth between the current mixed martial arts competition and the bygone days of high school glory. In the flashback scenes, the four male leads are played by PARK Jung-min as LIM, Goo Won as LEE, LEE Jung-hyuk as SONG, and PARK Doo-sik as SHIN. My understanding, based on what I picked up from watching the extras, is that Fists of Legend is the first or one of the first films in which all four of these actors have appeared. One of the wonderful ways in which the film succeeds is in keeping clear in the viewer's mind just which younger actor is portraying which older character and vice versa. This is just one aspect of the film's fine direction by
KANG Woo-suk, whose other works include Two Cops, Hanbando, and Silmido. Incidentally, there's a nice self-reference to that work in Fists of Legend.

LIM (right) fights "Mr. Turtle"in the cage

The numerous fight scenes are both well-choreographed and -performed. Major kudos to action director JUNG Doo-hong, who was the action coordinator for G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Berlin File.

Manager LEE, the "white-collar" legend

The disc has Korean 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks (with English subtitles that can be removed by using the subtitle button for your Blu-ray or DVD player) and English dubbed 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. Note that the running time is approximately 155 minutes, as indicated above and at IMDb. For some reason, the Blu-ray case information indicates that it is approximately 131 minutes, a minor error.

SHIN in the ring

There are more than forty minutes of Special Features:
- "The Living Legend" - a behind-the-scenes featurette of the choreographing, rehearsing and filming of fight scenes (approximately 22 minutes)
- Cry of 3 Men - featurette of the recording of the song "No Regrets" for the soundtrack (7 minutes)
- I'm the Best - coverage of the still photo shot of the film's stars (4 minutes)
- 19th Outing - press and public appearances by the cast and director (10 minutes)

Fists of Legend has not only great fight scenes, but also a fine story that offers compelling reflections on friendship and what it means to truly be a champion.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; good solid action entertainment.