Kickin’ It With The Boys: Fists of Legend movie review

April 17, 2013 at 3:34 am Leave a comment

Kickin' it with the boys, Fists Of Legend, 2013

Footwork, Yoon Je-moon, Fists Of Legend, 2013

Although it’s got its share of body slams and bloody fisticuffs, Fists of Legend, (now playing in select multiplexes in the U.S.) is a nice change of pace from the typical extreme South Korean fare that shows up in U.S. movie houses. In contrast to gangland thriller New World or spy flick Berlin Files, the two most recent Korean movies to roll through town, Fists of Legend is a surprisingly gentle and warmhearted piece of filmmaking. Despite its pugilistic trappings, it’s much more than just a fight movie.

The 2.5 hour-plus movie centers around Legendary Fist, a mixed martial arts reality show that pits former teenage streetfighters, now paunchy and in their forties, against trained MMA fighters. Among the middle-aged gladiators is Lim Deok-kyu (Hwang Jung-Min), a former teenage boxer who now owns a noodle shop. His wife died long ago, his angsty teenage daughter is in trouble at school, and his noodle shop is failing, so Deok-kyu signs up for Legendary Fist for the $20,000 prize money and a chance to redeem himself in his daughter’s eyes.

Dad & daughter, Fists Of Legend, 2013

Dad & daughter, Fists Of Legend, 2013

Despite its sometimes gory fistfighting scenes, Fists of Legend is not so much Thunderdome as it is a critique of contemporary South Korean social and cultural mores. The movie alternates between swaggering 1980s high school kids and their modern-day middle-aged incarnations, bouncing through bullying, father-daughter dynamics, media culture, teenage cliques, corporate corruption, and cronyism, among many other topics, in its long, sometimes meandering cinematic journey.

Bam! Hwang Jung-Min, Fists Of Legend, 2013

Bam! Hwang Jung-Min, Fists Of Legend, 2013

The sincere and slightly homely Hwang Jung-Min, who was outstanding as the hotheaded loose cannon in New World, is awesome as the noodle shop owner trying let go of the past. Also good is Yoon Je-moon as the corporate toady who learns to stand up for himself. The bad guys are somewhat one-dimensional but the many good guys have a lot of heart and depth. The film is also refreshingly unglamourous in its portrayal of midlife existence, although the fit and trim Hwang does have some pretty cut abs.

All in all the narrative’s bobs and weaves make for a fun and diverting way to spend 154 minutes. It’s not a classic, but it’s good, solid commercial entertainment.

NOTE: The increased number of Korean films gaining theatrical release in the U.S. is part of the resurgent Korean Wave now devouring the U.S. pop culture landscape. Following up his billion-views youtube megahit Gangnam Style, PSY’s latest MV Gentleman has as of this date reached 110 million hits and counting in the three days since its official release. The astoundingly hot Lee Byung-hun is tearing it up shirtless-style in the hit Hollywood actioner GI Joe: Redemption. Kia is apparently the trendy new auto line amongst young groovesters. And Korean Fried Chicken is the ono grind of choice among late-night post-club snackers.

Entry filed under: fists of legend, hwang jung-min, korean movies, movies. Tags: , , , , , .

More Than This: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts It Takes Two: 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival & San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


supported by

Blog Stats

  • 452,770 hits

Archives

tweetorama

  • RT @rebtanhs: NEW: Using exclusive videos, eyewitness accounts and analyses from crowd experts, @washingtonpost reconstructed what happened… 3 hours ago
  • RT @JoshuaPotash: There was a fire at an Amazon warehouse, and Amazon told workers to get back to work right after. A couple hundred though… 22 hours ago
  • RT @brokeymcpoverty: i think about the man who owns arizona ice tea at least once a day bc he really blew my mind when he said that he's no… 1 day ago
  • RT @petercalloway: There are 3 types of ppl in San Francisco: those who knew this and tried to tell others. Those who knew this & lied abt… 1 day ago
  • RT @luckytran: Congratulations to the faculty unions at Rutgers who were able to reverse the lifting of the university’s mask mandate after… 1 day ago
  • RT @kristenstockdal: An interesting development in the Kim <> Kanye saga https://t.co/oN2Ktmb0c3 1 day ago
  • RT @DrJenHo: Despite what President Biden and other leaders have said, despite the fact that nearly no one masks and rates of vaccination i… 1 day ago
  • RT @nancywyuen: Meghan in her podcast #Archetypes calls out the "toxic stereotyping of women of Asian descent...As a case in point, she int… 1 day ago
  • RT @chesaboudin: San Francisco police reported higher rates of both violent and property crime than over the same period last year. The inc… 1 day ago
  • RT @DaliaHasanMD: Safe to say, after 2+ years of living through this pandemic... I've normalized masking up I don't even think twice when… 2 days ago
  • RT @JoshuaPotash: One thousand food service workers at the San Francisco Airport went on a strike for 3 days. In just 3 days they won a 29%… 2 days ago
  • RT @klrobson: Sorry I don't want to come I'm saving all my covid exposure for things I want to do 2 days ago
  • RT @RosenbergFound: ICYMI: Last week, youth with @YoungWomenFree protested San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins' plan to prosecut… 3 days ago
  • RT @strategistjas: 4/ Feel the air I jog the most in this season and at lunch time so it’s sunny. A lot of people avoid going outside bec… 3 days ago
  • RT @ambermfares: “As critics, programmers, filmmakers, and audience members in the documentary field, it is our job to question everything… 3 days ago

%d bloggers like this: