The Chinese Connection (Fist of Fury) (1972)
The Chinese Connection (Fist of Fury) (1972)

Genre: Martial Arts Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: September 9th, 1972 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Lo Wei Actors: Bruce Lee, Miao Ker Hsiu, James Tien, Maria Yi, Robert Baker, Fu Ching Chen, Shan Chin, Riki Hashimoto

 


 

T

he story begins with the death of Ho Yuan-chia, a legendary Chinese hero, famous for his victories over Russia’s champion wrestler and Japan’s bushido experts. He was poisoned – but by whom, and why? “The Chinese Connection” is a fictionalized version of that incident, offering up a take on the murder with the bombastic, sensationalized martial arts visuals of Bruce Lee. Taking after James Bond, the movie opens with a song by an uncredited Mike Remedios. Interestingly, this film’s title was intended to capitalize on the release of 1971’s “The French Connection” and was meant for use on “The Big Boss,” which also involved drug smuggling. Due to a mix-up, the movies were switched; this one, having nothing to do with illegal substances, was supposed to be called “Fist of Fury” (a title that has since been restored to most releases).

Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) arrives just in time for the funeral of his teacher. Saddened and suspicious, he’s distracted from marrying his fiancée (Miao Ker Hsiu) or mourning his fallen master when the effeminate Mr. Wu (Ping Ou Wei), an interpreter for Mr. Suzuki’s Japanese school of martial arts, comes to the Chinese Jingwu school, looking for a fight. He proceeds to blurt insults (quite hilariously), humiliate the obedient students, and slap Zhen’s face. But the Chinese disciples are trained to keep the peace and absorb the taunts with humility. After the troublemakers leave, Zhen heads to Suzuki’s Hongkou dojo and not only defeats an entire room full of fighters, but also the lead instructor.

Oddly, Zhen’s refractory action directly contradicts his master’s teachings and, not so unexpectedly, immediately ignites retaliation by Suzuki’s goons. A gang of Japanese warriors head back to the Jingwu campus and beat up the entire class. It’s decided that Zhen must be banished from Shanghai in order to prevent further upheaval, and so a train ticket is arranged for the following morning. But Zhen stumbles upon Yuan-chia’s poisoners and kills them, vowing to track down their employer to avenge the assassination of his great teacher.

Unlike Lee’s other films, “The Chinese Connection” boasts numerous scenes of total retaliation and revenge, which is typically postponed in other episodes until the very end, when some significant injustice is done. Here, a few light affronts are enough to instantly spark warfare. The values and ethics are amusingly tossed aside from the get-go for a flimsy premise to set up a series of large-scale combat scenes, putting to use Lee’s nunchaku skills and ferocious roundhouses. These are accompanied by rapid zooms into Lee’s steely eyes and kicks directly at the camera lens. While the first half stirs things up swiftly, the second half succumbs to the plodding uncovering of the poisoning scheme, romancing the girl, investigatory visits by the police, and Lee donning several silly disguises like a kung-fu version of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. Bad dubbing and poorer sound effects negatively boost the downtime between skirmishes, though the showdown with the samurai sword-wielding Hongkou instructor, followed by Petrov the bowtie-wearing Russian master and finally the wickedly mustachioed Suzuki himself, is enthusiastically action-packed. But like “The Big Boss,” Lee’s total vanquishing of his enemies isn’t applauded by the law, and an unpleasant justice is demanded for his vengeance – a tragic sacrifice to ensure that his friends and family continue on unmolested.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10