Films, Hong Kong, Martial arts, Recommended posts, Reviews, Sci Fi / Fantasy

The Avenging Fist

Andrew Lau and Corey Yuen direct this silly, fun sci-fi fight movie – but often messy, this is a bit ‘choppy’ in the wrong way…

The pioneer of CGI effects in Hong Kong movies Andrew Lau (The Stormriders, The Duel, A Man Called Hero, Armed and Dangerous) and fight choreographer supremo Corey Yuen (Saviour Of The Soul, Fong Sai Yuk I & II) collaborate for the first time as directors (though by no means for the first time full stop). The result is a fun, consciously silly futuristic fight movie styled after Anime and computer games (particularly Tekken), but in the final rounds even a HK devotee will have trouble keeping up with the plot.

Set in the future when all weapons are outlawed. Nova (Lee Hom-wong, China Strike Force) and Belle (Kristy Yang, The Stormriders, A Man Called Hero), along with adopted brother Jazz (Kar Lok Chin, Scorpion King, Drunken Master II), are heirs to a legacy left behind by their father Thunder (played by Yuen Biao, The Prodigal Son, Righting Wrongs, Eastern Condors), part of an experiment by the police force to unleash the 90% of the unused part of the brain using the ‘Power Glove’. Seemingly killed some 20 years earlier, Nova has learned a mighty martial arts style he invented. Using it to beat Iron Surfer (Stephen Fung, Gen-X Cops, Gorgeous, Twelve Nights) in a tournament Nova inadvertently reveals it to the public.

One of the only other survivors of that experiment, Combat 21 (Roy Cheung, Wild Search, Beast Cops, The Wicked City), wants to discover it’s secrets, since the combination of style and glove will make him invincible. Now leading a fascist underground group known as ‘The Red Dragons’ the only place Nova can turn to help is Dark (Sammo Hung, Martial Law, The Prodigal Son, Eastern Condors, Spooky Encounters), a police chief who is the only other survivor of that experiment. Their father, however, isn’t dead, but a slave of Combat 21. It seems that father must face son…

Inhabiting a futuristic landscape along the lines of Blade Runner and Fifth Element, Avenging Fist is the antithesis of science fiction movies like Minority Report and A.I. that take themselves too seriously. Writer Chan Sap-sam, together with producer Wong Jing (High Risk, Last Hero In China, God Of Gamblers) and the directors, have real fun with the possibilities of the future. Mobile phones, for instance, are the pretend phones you make with your hand with thumb and little finger extended. (Which is also, incidentally, the hand signal for ‘six’ in Chinese.) When Iron nervously offers his hand to Belle to make a phone call, she asks if he has it on vibrate mode. It’s refreshingly silly, innocent view of the future seems to have come straight out of the 60s.

Elsewhere Ekin Cheng cameo’s as a young Dark, causing many characters to remark on how much weight Sammo Hung’s character has put on. (Sammo, of course, has been quite rotund his entire career.) Part of a great support cast including Cecilia Yip (Swordsman, Winners and Sinners, Center Stage) as their mother, both new and established faces make the most of their comic book roles. (Though you wish Roy Cheung was given a meatier role to work with.)

Despite a budget that would probably only cover the catering on a Hollywood movie, Avenging Fist looks pretty good with a high standard of CGI. Only rarely do the effects pale in comparison to their western counterparts. The first fight scene, for instance, seems rather over-stylised, with proportions wildly amiss (presumably intentional). Corey Yuen, who has also acted as action choreographer on nearly all of Jet Li’s American films, including Kiss of the Dragon, The One and Romeo Must Die, seems better grounded with more realistic fight sequences, where proves his reputation time and time again.

Where the budget does show, however, comes in the rushed last third of the film. Having spent a fair amount of screen time setting up the characters, the night life they inhabit, and the romances between Nova and Erika (Gigi Leung, Hitman, Feel 100%), Iron and Belle, the film then jettisons any thought of a coherent story, rushing from scene to scene with no explanation of how characters got there. A surprise from Andrew Lau, who is something of a king of exposition – in Hong Kong terms at least. (A Man Called Hero was little more than that with one great fight scene at the end!) At about 30 minutes less than his previous effect spectaculars (save Wesley’s Mysterious File, one can’t help but wonder if there just wasn’t the budget to maintain the level of effects over the much needed extra 10 or 20 minutes.

More disappointing still is the final showdown, far too brief for any real gratification. The heroes never once seem in any danger of losing, the battle too momentary to worry, it also misses the chance for these super powers to rip through the city with their might. Messy in the final reel, this is entertaining if not wholly successful. Ultimately you’ll be a little too aware of what could have been.

Home media details

Distributor:Hong Kong Legends (UK)

Another high quality transfer from Hong Kong Legends, the DVD also includes a fascinating 50 odd minute 'making of' featurette. In fact, it's almost more interesting than the film itself...

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Andrew Heskins
Founder of easternKicks.com, which he's been running since 2002. And it's all thanks to Monkey, Water Margin and those damn fantastic 80s Hong Kong action movies! Andy works as a graphic designer in London... More »
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