After Bruce Lee hit it big with the appropriately named The Big Boss, it was clear that his next movie would need to be even bigger. Reteaming with director Lo Wei, as well as prolific wuxia author Ni Kuang, Lee and company released Fist of Fury. It annihilated box office records in Hong Kong and grossed what today would be $600 million worldwide, holding its record until Lee’s other instant classic, The Way of the Dragon dethroned it later that year. There are several recent re-releases of Lee’s iconic films on boutique Blu-ray. If you’re not interested in the expensive sets, Umbrella’s newest individual release is a great package that is a must for any martial-arts fan who has yet to experience this wonderful film.
Fist of Fury focuses on Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee), a character made so popular by this film that he returned for multiple films and TV series even after Lee passed. Chen Zhen is a (fictional) student of the real-life Huo Yuanjia, a Chinese martial artist and national hero for defeating foreign fighters in public matches at a time when imperialist and colonialist forces destroyed Chinese sovereignty. With this loaded backstory, it is no surprise that Chen Zhen fights for justice for his fellow countrymen.
For the most part, the film is mostly Lee dealing out nuclear-grade kung-fu knockdowns, with two moments jumping out as favourites: Lee simply throwing a threatening look at Japanese imperialists to make them literally eat their sign that reads “China is the sick man of Asia”; and kick-smashing a different sign at a park entrance that reads “No Dogs or Chinese allowed.” Though the film has had a few different names on release, Fist of Fury is most apt given the force with which he fights against agents of oppression. A powerful reminder of the power of standing up, Fist of Fury resonates to this day, especially to Chinese diaspora, with its powerful message of Chinese solidarity and pride in the face of racism and colonialism.
Of course, the main reason Fist of Fury endures is Lee’s blistering fight choreography. He set trends that action films follow to this day; as a result, this 50-year-old film still feels contemporary. Lee’s fights looked like actual brawls, and this is the film that caused Lee’s cinematic star to fully ascend, with good reason.
Umbrella’s release continues the imprint’s handsome aesthetic tradition in the Films of Fury sub-label and includes a bonus poster — always cool! The supplementary materials consist of a documentary and supplemental interviews. However, if you are not an extras fiend willing to pay for Criterion’s Bruce Lee mega-set and want a handsome Region B release of this fantastic film, Umbrella has you covered.