Director: Kang Woo-Suk
Writer: Jang Min-Suk
Producer: Son Jung-Woo, Jung Sun-Young
Cast: Hwang Jung-Min, Yu Jun-Sang, Yoon Je-Moon, Jung Woong-In, Park Jung-Min, Gu Won, Park Doo-Sik, Lee Jung-Hyuk, Lee Yo-Won, Sung Ji-Ru, Ji-Woo, Kang Shin-Il, Kang Sung-Jin, Seo Beom-sik
Running Time: 153 min.
Fists of Legend is a Korean action-drama directed by mega hit-maker Woo Suk-Kang (Glove, Silmido, Moss, Public Enemy) and scripted by Min-Seok Jang (Secret Reunion, Traces of Love). It’s about three aging men competing in a reality TV show called “Legendary Fighter,” billed as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In the show, contestants (many of whom were legendary street fighters in their youth) fight professionals and each other to win prize money.
Other than the similar title to Jet Li’s classic hit Fist of Legend (1994), the film bears no resemblance to the former. The title came from its inspiration, the webcomic Legendary Fist, illustrated by Lee Yoon-Gyun and written by Lee Jong-Gyu (published November 25, 2010 to May 19, 2011 via web portal).
Hwang Jeong-min (Man in Love, New World, Dancing Queen) plays Lim Deok-kyu, an aspiring boxer in his youth with dreams of entering the Olympics, but was robbed of his one opportunity by corrupt judges. He now runs a struggling noodle shop and has trouble making ends meet. He has an alienated daughter – an outcast – who’s constantly bullied by her high school mates. His mom, who helps him out at the noodle shop, also gives him a hard time over his financial woes.
Shin Jae-seok (Yun Je-moon of My Dictator, Messenger) is an aging third rate wanna-be gangster who never quite made it to the top hierarchy of organized crime. He is still single and meandering aimlessly through life as a low level thug without any real friends. Shin and Lim were rivals during their high school days, but later struck up an unusual friendship.
Lee Sang-hoon (Yoo Jun-sang of Running Man), was another feared and highly skilled fighter in his heydays in high school. He was Lim’s best friend. Now he works as an executive for Son Jin-Ho (Jung Woong-in of Veteran, Unstoppable Family), his sadistic CEO, cleaning up his boss’ mess regardless of how degrading it is. Lee does not particularly enjoy his work but has no choice but to provide for his son’s expensive schooling overseas.
Hong Kyu-min (Lee Yo-won of Take Care of My Cat, May 18) is the unscrupulous producer of “Legendary Fighter.” Ratings are her only concern. She unabashedly uses men’s desperation to troll for contestants. Seeking out legendary fighters from their youth, she came upon the three men which she shamelessly pursues for her show.
Lim, Shin, and Lee will once again have a reunion after so many years, not in a restaurant, but in the final elimination rounds of the show. Their friendship and loyalty will be put to the test, as will their fighting skills. Who will emerge victorious remains to be seen as they fight their way to the last two contestants standing.
Hwang Jeon-min as Lim Deok-kyu is excellent as the single parent of a troubled youth trying to balance his shaky relationship, while trying to run a money-losing noodle shop. A peaceful man by nature, Lim is a victim of circumstances and reluctantly enters the TV tournament in hopes of bettering his financial woes.
My favorite character in the movie is Shin Jae-seok, craftily played by Yun Je-moon. Bumbling along through life, he hasn’t achieved notoriety or fame and has not done well for himself. But underlying that ineptness is a heart of gold, and true loyalty which shines throughout the movie.
Fists of Legend is a very entertaining film that mixes drama with good action scenes in the ring. The fighting matches were shot from different angles and slow motion close ups to heighten the tension. Bloodletting and sprays from punches to the head and face were kept to a minimum and tastefully done. Kang Woo-suk, best known for his work on box office hits such as Silmido (2003) and the Public Enemy (2002-2008) trilogy has done an excellent job interweaving the drama with the action scenes. The story seamlessly brought to life the troubled lives of the three main characters.
It is apparent that Kang is an admirer of John Woo, particularly A Better Tomorrow (1986), as thematic elements of loyalty and friendship are blatantly lifted and voiced repeatedly.
Clocking in at about 154 minutes, the film is at times too long and drawn out. Certain scenes are overly dramatic, unnecessary and thematically repetitive. However, the film is worth watching.
oneleaf’s Rating: 7/10