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Sometimes there’s nothing quite like a bad martial arts movie. The sub-par dialogue, the ridiculous storylines, and wooden acting combined with incredibly choreographed fight scenes can make for a fun film experience.
For a great many martial arts movies, everything comes second to the fighting. Plot and characterization are more or less excuses that drive the film from one display of martial arts to another, and that’s fine. Naturally there are those martial arts films that deliver a compelling, sophisticated plot and characterization along with the action, but unfortunately Soul of Bruce Lee and Fighting Fist don’t fall into this category.
Of the two, Soul of Bruce Lee is the better, and is actually pretty fun to watch. Chiba plays the student of the Thai Fighting style in an attempt to make himself stronger after witnessing the deaths of his parents. Chiba witnesses a classmate murder their master, and vows vengeance. The murderer becomes the head of a large drug syndicate, and Chiba must join forces with an Interpol agent in order to fulfill his revenge.
The lengths that Chiba goes to in order to beat his former classmate is what makes this such an enjoyable movie to watch. Chiba pushes his body and mind to their limits, going so far as to turn to drugs and some sort of machine that sends electric impulses directly into his muscles which supposedly strengthens him and adds speed to his attacks. And it seems to work, because the martial arts scenes in Soul of Bruce Lee are great, especially when Chiba has to fight off five attackers who have been possessed by monkey spirits (really, you’ll have to see it to believe it).
Soul of Bruce Lee isn’t great by any means, but it’s much better than the other movie on this double feature—Fighting Fist. The plot for this feature is that the Yakuza has infiltrated Hong Kong universities and is getting into all kinds of illegal shenanigans. The police have tried everything to infiltrate the syndicate, but to no avail. With nothing else to lose, the police decide to send in a female officer to work undercover and bring down the Yakuza from the inside.
This movie is the anti-Soul of Bruce Lee in that it sucks all of fun out of the room like a localized black hole. The plot is pretty slapdash, as is the characterization, and the action sequences are boring. In fact, many of the fight scenes were shot in some kind of strange, herky-jerky slow motion that made the fighters look like they were in a bad stop-motion animation. Chiba doesn’t have much to do with this movie, which is probably a smart career move on his part.
There is also one technical note on Fighting Fist: for some reason the subtitles did not show up when I played this on my DVD player. This was problematic because the only language track was Japanese. However, the subtitles did appear when I played the disk on my computer, so they are there. This may be something a viewer may want to consider before buying this double feature.
Although both movies definitely show their age, there were no real problems with the video or the audio—other than the subtitles not showing up on my DVD player for Fighting Fist. Soul of Bruce Lee was presented in 1.85:1 Widescreen ratio and had two language tracks: English and Japanese with subtitles. Fighting Fist was presented in Widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and only had a Japanese with English subtitles language track.
Both movies had the same extra feature, a preview of upcoming titles from Rarescope. The preview was a single track and ran for 4:38. Although none of the movies looked particularly exciting, some did seem to have the potential to be fun, and others just had some cool titles: King of Fists and Dollars, Return of the Deadly Blade, Ninja in Ancient China, Chinese Hercules, A Sword Named Revenge, Demi Gods and Semi Devils (this was my favorite title), and Black Eagle’s Blade.
Although Soul of Bruce Lee was fun, Fighting Fist practically negates any enjoyment derived from this double feature. Hardcore martial arts fans may want to add this to their collection, but I’d advise on passing on this one. Not recommended.
Rarescope presents Sonny Chiba: Fighting Fist and Soul of Chiba Double Feature. Directed Starring Sonny Chiba. Running time: 94 minutes for Soul of Bruce Lee and 91 minutes for Fighting Fist. Unrated. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com