China has its share of folk heroes, but as far as fictional characters go, few have become as popular as Chen Zhen, whom we first met in “Fist of Fury” as played by Bruce Lee. The character tapped into feelings of national pride amongst Chinese audiences, and touched a nerve with the rest of the world on subjects of duty, honor and, of course, revenge. Bruce Lee’s seminal hit was followed by “New Fist of Fury” which met with lukewarm response, but gave Kung Fu cinema fans an early look at Jackie Chan. The film was later remade as “Fist of Legend” with Jet Li in the lead role, and the legend of Chen Zhen has been a popular source of inspiration for Hong Kong and Chinese television producers ever since the initial film’s release in 1972.
The next Kung Fu legend to take on the role will be Donnie Yen in the upcoming “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen”, to be produced and directed by Andrew Lau, perhaps most well known in the West for serving the same roles (and acting) in “Infernal Affairs”. This will actually be the second time Yen has tackled the role, having portrayed Chen Zhen once before in the television series “Fist of Fury” which followed Li’s 1994 film by a single year. All that remains to be seen now is whether Lau’s film, already a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival, will live up to its lineage.