Arrow Video welcomes a 2K HD restoration of Lo Wei’s “New Fist of Fury” into their collection.

With the tragic death of Bruce Lee, there was a massive hole left in the martial arts cinema community that led to a genre of exploitation films centered on capturing the essence of Lee through imitation via actors Bruce Li (Fist of Fury II), Bruce Le (Enter the Game of Death), Dragon Lee (Kungfu Fever), and others. Rather than go this route, Fist of Fury (1972) director Lo Wei tapped Fist stuntman Jackie Chan to make the lead of his 1976 sequel New Fist of Fury. A few years later, with Chan’s star significantly risen after projects like The Killer Meteors (1976) and Drunken Master (1978), Fortune Star re-cut and re-released the film in a version that’s far shorter than Lo’s original edition and focuses more on Chan. Via Arrow Video, home viewing audiences are treated to a 2K HD restoration of both versions of New Fist of Fury, complete with several on-disc bonus features and a few limited edition accoutrements.

In the wake of Chen Zhen’s (Lee) death and the threat of punishment by Japanese officials in the fallout from his battle, Chen’s fiancée and fellow Jingwu School student Mao Li-er (Nora Miao) and her two disciples leave Shanghai for Taiwan where her grandfather Master Su (Yi Ming) lives. Unbeknownst to her, the Japan representative, Okimura (Chan Sing), where her grandfather lives is thinking of bringing all the martial arts school underneath his banner. This action challenges reduces the agency of all the school masters, but few are willing to put up a fight. With spirits low, Li-ir and the rest of the masters find help in a surprising place, a thief with a grunge against martial arts named Ah Lung (Chan).

There are many things that separate New Fist from the original and too many things that are carried over that don’t work as well. A strength is that it doesn’t try to replace Lee’s Chen or make a point to pretend that the character somehow survived, rather, in a very slow fashion, Ah Lung is crowned as the spiritual successor to Chen in the run-up to the climax. This enables the narrative of New Fist to stand on its own while also attempting to usher in a new hero. This smart decision, however, is hampered by co-writer Lo and Pan Lei’s (Snake in the Crane’s Shadow) script in the original edition as it spends a great deal of time connecting the characters of Fist to New Fist, introduces several new characters that it doesn’t always explore deeply enough, and spends more than an hour of its two-hour runtime avoiding Ah Lung. Considering the success of female-led films like Come Drink with Me (1966) and others, it would’ve been smarter to either lean on Li-er more as both focal point and hero (with support by Ah Lung) or to bring in Ah Lung sooner by shortening the time spent with the often repetitious sequences with Okimura and the other local marital arts masters. Like Fist, New Fist takes place during Japanese occupation of China, so the conflict between countries serves as the undercurrent turmoil, but the execution is more natural in Fist and somewhat forced in New Fist by including an assassination plot against Okimura that the script fails to explore more deeply. Personally, I read the attack as the brainchild of the master who continually sucks-up to Okimura, but it never goes anywhere other than being used to propel Okimura into trying to unify the martial arts schools in an effort to bring them all under the control of Japan, an idea he did not have or want to do prior to the attack. In the first film, the Japanese are the unabashed villains with their “sick men of Asia” sign and violent takedowns of the Jingwa School. In New Fist, Okimura is more like an emissary of Japan who takes any perceived slight of disrespect as a personal insult, but is otherwise happy to keep things as they are. Ultimately, New Fist lacks any sense of originality, passion, and intensity of the first, and the drama isn’t intriguing enough to make up for the deficits.

In a regular home release review, especially one of an older theatrical release, I would offer information on the packaging, any included physical home release materials, as well as share the process of creating the print. Though a review copy was provided by MVD Entertainment Group to conduct this home release review, it is a check disc and only comes accompanied by the two versions of the film and on-disc materials. According to the press release and official release sites, the retail edition includes a slipcover, an illustrated collector’s booklet, a reversible foldout poster, a reversible liner to display one of two covers, and several on-disc materials. Though I cannot speak to the process of creating the 2K restoration, the press notes indicate that the original elements of both versions of the film came from Fortune Star (as with recent restoration Warriors Two). As I do not have access to the physical materials that accompany the release, I will refrain from speculation.

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What I can speak to is the restoration on the original edition is fairly strong. There’s heavy visible grain in the sequence toward the beginning of the film where Li-er and her disciples are fleeing Shanghai, but, otherwise, there’s minimal grain and artifacting throughout the film. In fact, prior to noticing this, as we observe a man walking the streets of Shanghai in the dark, arriving at a building and traversing the stair, the blacks are dark and inky, the reds of the walls and banisters rich, and the skin tone natural. This carries forward through the rest of the film, with the only unnatural colors being the typical red paint used for blood. With the exception of some occasional clipping, the audio is equally strong, with the dialogue coming through clearly, as well as the ambient noise and score. This is, of course, a monoaural audio track so you won’t get the typical immersion one expects with a 5.1 home theater, but there’s good balance nonetheless so one doesn’t really need to mess with your home theater sound settings much.

The on-disc materials include two commentary tracks (one for the theatrical cut with frequent Arrow Video and 88 Films commentary Frank Djeng and Michael Worth and one for the re-release with Brandon Bentley), the visual essay Dueling Furies by Bentley exploring the production battle to make and release both Lo’s New Fist and Lee Tso-Nam & Jimmy Shaw’s co-directed Fist of Fury Part II (1977), a trailer gallery, and an image gallery. In order to access the commentary tracks, you need to first select the version of the film you want to screen and then the appropriate commentary track will appear within the “special features” subsection of the main screen.

Be advised:

One, if you’re coming to New Fist expecting a Jackie Chan Film™, you will not get it. While there are a few instances of his famous physical comedy, that’s not the vibe of the film as a whole nor does it work within the framework of the narrative. Instead, the moments wherein we get glimpses of the fight choreography global audiences have come to identify with Chan are used to highlight how inept Ah Lung is at martial arts despite possessing a willingness (pre-training) to get into fights.

Two, the difference between the theatrical and re-release are significant even before considering the 40-minutes of footage missing and how that changes the focus of New Fist. There are scenes where the cinematography appears to be different, as though not restored in the same method, and the subtitles are also different, likely a necessity to get around the cut footage.

If you’re a Chan completionist or looking to fill a gap in your martial arts catalogue, New Fist of Fury is something you can watch either having seen the Bruce Lee original or not and find something to appreciate. It’s not really a Chan film, though it’s billed as such, and it lacks anything unique that doesn’t instead make one think they’d rather be watching the original. You can certainly view the film as an opportunity to see Chan when he was still supporting films rather than starring in them, as well as to get a bit more cinematic context regarding the socio-political issues utilized by both this and the original Fist. It being a solid restoration is certainly a tip in its favor, but there’s little here that justifies snagging it immediately. In that case, you’re better off waiting for a sale and going from there.

New Fist of Fury Special Features:

  • New 2K restoration from the original negatives by Fortune Star
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray transfers of the 120-min Original Theatrical Cut and the 82-min 1980 Re-release Cut
  • Original Mandarin and English lossless mono audio for the Theatrical Cut, plus newly uncovered alternate Mandarin and Cantonese mono audio
  • Original Cantonese and English lossless mono audio for the Re-Release Cut
  • Newly translated optional English subtitles
  • New feature commentary on the Theatrical Cut by martial arts cinema experts Frank Djeng & Michael Worth, co-directors of Enter the Clones of Bruce Lee
  • New feature commentary on the Re-Release Cut by action cinema expert Brandon Bentley
  • Duelling Furies, a new video essay by Bentley comparing New Fist of Fury to the rival sequel made simultaneously, Fist of Fury Part II
  • Trailer gallery, including a Chen Zhen trailer reel of sequels and reboots
  • Image gallery
  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Jonathan Clements and an archival retrospective article by Brian Bankston

Available on Blu-ray August 29th, 2023.

For more information, head to the official Arrow Video New Fist of Fury webpage.

To purchase, head to the official MVD Entertainment Group New Fist of Fury webpage.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews

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