Fists of Legend Blu-ray Review
FISTS OF LEGEND opens with a series of fast-paced street fights that are only possible to make any sense out of once the narrators (in the form of ring announcers) give us the lowdown: one is taking on more than a dozen toughs; the other is whooping on criminals.
“Ever wonder what happened to the best brawlers from your school days?” asks one of the announcers. (You probably haven’t, but that’s the best their script allows.) “We have the answer for you right here on Legendary Fighter!” The point of the show, it seems, is to gather adults who couldn’t control their anger in their teenage years, dangle thousands of dollars in front of their faces and put them in a ring to duke it out in front of millions of viewers at home.
And now a brief pause so the audience can meet the four high school friends who will enter the ring for a shot at riches: there’s noodle shop owner Im Deok-kyu (Hwang Jung-min, BLADES OF BLOOD), businessman Lee Sang-hoon (Yu Jun-sang, IN ANOTHER COUNTRY), gangster Shin Jae-seok (Yoon Jea-moon, DANGEROUSLY EXCITED) and company head Son Jin-ho (Jung Woong-in, CITY OF DAMNATION).
Will a show like this pull in the giant ratings the executives want? As producer Hong Gyu-min (Lee Yo-won, television series QUEEN SEONDEOK) puts it, “A noodle shop owner takes down a top athlete? That’s good stuff!” If she says so…
Mixed martial arts have become a popular go-to to make macho fare seem even remotely fresh (because boxing, to the average UFC fan, seems so puny). And they all have titles that could also work as neck tattoos for those that obsess over the “sport”: BLOOD AND BONE, NEVER BACK DOWN, UNDISPUTED, WARRIOR…And now here’s FISTS OF LEGEND, which also sounds like a rejected title for an arcade fighting game. (It also might actually also be the first one to use “Eye of the Tiger” on the soundtrack, which is just one example of how confused the movie really is.)
FISTS OF LEGEND is directed by Kang Woo-suk (the PUBLIC ENEMY trilogy, released between 2002 and 2008). To his and screenwriter Jang Min-seok’s (TRACES OF LOVE) credit, the movie at least tries to take the characters seriously and flesh them out, giving them each a backstory (one of which involves the 1988 Olympics). Still, this doesn’t make FISTS OF LEGEND better than its predecessors, only longer. FISTS OF LEGEND clocks in at more than 150 minutes, which is entirely too long for this sort of movie. Yes, character development is important, but it’s hard to care about this one’s parental issues and that one’s bitterness when it takes away from the one thing viewers are seeing the movie for: the fighting.
As expected, FISTS OF LEGEND does have a lot of such scenes (with on-the-nose play-by-play for those that don’t know what an armbar is). If only the movie had cut about an hour (or at least two characters) out of its runtime, it might have been the action-packed beat-‘em-up it’s instead only pretending to be.
FISTS OF LEGEND BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. FISTS OF LEGEND looks great throughout. There is a limited range of colors, but the tones that are used come through naturally.
Audio: Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital; Korean 2.0 Dolby Digital; English 5.1 Dolby Digital; English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English. The audio transfer is the highlight, though, as every landed punch (and “Eye of the Tiger” intro) comes through the speakers with full effect.
The Living Legend (22:11): This behind-the-scenes featurette compiles footage from rehearsals and the shoot to give fans a look at the work that went into the making of FISTS OF LEGEND.
Cry of 3 Men (7:02) looks at the song “No Regrets,” which is featured prominently in the movie.
I’m the Best (4:06) offers footage from a publicity shoot with some of the primary cast.
19th Outing (10:01) was recorded at the premiere of FISTS OF LEGEND.