Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Fists of Legend: A Steel Cage High School Reunion
Steven Seagal in Under Siege, Lim
Deok-kyu is a cook, not a fighter. He
once knew his way around a boxing ring, but those days are over, at least until
a hard-charging producer recruits him for a mixed martial arts reality show. Much to his surprise, he will grapple with
some old friends in Kang Woo-suk’s Fists
of Legend (trailer
is now playing in New York.
boxing career ended on a sour note. It
was complicated, as we will learn in a series of flashbacks. The middle-aged one-time high school legend
tries to be a good single father to his daughter, but he is having trouble
making ends meet with his noodle restaurant.
Reluctantly, he agrees to appear on Hong Gyu-min’s program pitting notable
former school yard brawlers against each other.
Of course, Lim starts notching up victories, including an early “W”
against his old chum Shin Jae-suk.
teenaged Lim and Shin ruled over two high schools together with their running
mates Lee Sang-hoon and Son Jin-ho. Lim
largely dropped out sight, while Shin became a small time gangster. Lee resigned himself to a career as the
well-heeled Son’s corporate yes-man, bitterly resenting the constant humiliations. As they often do, events will conspire,
forcing Lee onto the show to face Lim.
However, the champ quickly sours on his new found fame. Nonetheless, he will be one of the fan
favorites for the show’s tournament of champions.
Fists combines the sensitive juvenile
delinquent drama (like Green Fish for
example) with a MMA smackdown. Action
director Jung Doo-hong’s fight scenes in both time frames are cinematic and
convincingly brutal. Evidently, actor Yu
Jun-sang had to be rushed to the emergency room during filming, which is always
a promising testimonial for an action film.
Sang-soo admirers will probably be surprised to see the auteur’s regular surrogate
in such an action driven role, but Yu clearly gave it his all. As Lee, he is also quite strong on the
dramatic end as well. While Hwang Jung-min
navigated plenty of mayhem in New World,
his work as Lim is still an impressive shift of gears. He totally nails the world-weary earnestness
viewers demand from their Rocky figures. As the Ringo of this Fab Four, Shin could
have easily become a caricature, but Yoon Jea-moon invests him with surprising
dignity and presence. Of the quartet,
only Jung Woong-in’s entitled Son is an underdeveloped stock figure.
Rocky comparison is hardly
accidental. “Eye of the Tiger” is heard
throughout the film and audiences are sure to take a strong rooting interest in
Lim and his daughter. However, screenwriter
Jang Min-seok nimbly sidesteps the big climatic fight cliché, with a smart, almost
Nevertheless, Fists brings more pain than the average wuxia or gangster conflagration. It is not for the overly sensitive, but MMA
and boxing fans will feast on its steel cage beatdowns. Recommended for fans of contemporary martial
arts films with a hint of media criticism, Fists
of Legend is now playing in New York at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Martial arts cinema