The Avenging Fist
(Kuen sun) (2001)
Directed by Wai Keung Lau and Corey Yuen

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * *

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Sometime in the future, human beings have so altered their genetic structure that they have annoyed God, their original designer, who has, consequently, abandoned mankind and turned the sky black. While partying and fighting under the multicolored neon signs and projected images with which the now moonlit Earth is adorned, a young man named Nova (Lee-Hom Wang) practices a special style of martial arts, Avenging Fist, developed by his supposedly deceased father. Unbeknownst to him, however, his father has actually joined with Combat 21 (Roy Cheung), a diabolical fiend with a fondness for fascistic military uniforms, who plans to use his own secret, genetically modified army, the Red Dragons, to take over the world.

Wai Keung Lau and Corey Yuen's The Avenging Fist is a colorful, action filled, and absolutely ridiculous movie.


Though the film is fast paced and sometimes visually appealing, it is, in fact, usually fun to watch because of its faults, not its virtues. The directors have included, for instance, numerous utterly laughable attempts to arouse in the viewer feelings of sorrow or sympathy. Whether they are depicting Nova's mother dying in his arms, his father realizing his love for his son, or his sister voluntarily giving up her life so that she can infuse the man with whom she is infatuated with some vague power, the directors wallow in such hammy, overwrought excesses that it is unlikely anybody will be touched by the events depicted. If, however, he can keep from wincing at the ineptitude with which so many of the film's sequences have been realized, the moviegoer may well be able to snicker, on more than a few occasions, at the unsubtle and silly histrionics with which he is being presented.

The movie is also given some appeal by its frequent and absurd posturing and its numerous foolish conceits. From the shiny silver hat worn by Dark (Sammo Hung), a detective who had been a friend of Nova's father and who knows the exact second he will die, to various characters' shallow ponderings on human relationships and ethics, to the utterly ridiculous Power Glove, a mysterious device able to give its wearer control over the "Forbidden Zone," the ninety-percent of the brain which, the film claims, ordinary persons are unable to use, the movie is overflowing with a plethora of outlandish visual and narrative elements.

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What is more, all these details lend the film the feeling of a video game. Even the directors' ridiculous but fun characters are more like those from such a game than than they are like persons from most movies. Many of them, in fact, appear to have been included in The Avenging Fist solely to provide excuses for one or another fight sequence in which a given character will be able to display some special power.

The film's vibrantly frenetic, crudely animated look, as well as its exaggerated costumes, goofy special effects, and colorful street scenes ablaze with neon signs, are similarly likely to remind the viewer of the visual qualities he might have encountered in video games. Fortunately, these details do imbue the movie with an enjoyable sense of excitement not unlike that with which such games are often suffused. Consequently, whatever its failings, the film, while never beautiful or inventive, can be captivating to look at.


Regrettably, such delightfully atrocious elements are rarely intriguing enough to enthrall the viewer and are never supplemented by any notable virtues. Even the movie's numerous fight sequences, which constitute a large part of its duration, are usually poorly done. Few are well choreographed and most are just forgettable. While they do have a wonderfully cartoonish feel which does give them some appeal, this solitary virtue is not enough to make up for the fact that these scenes simply are not exciting.

Other than its visual style, its often ludicrous melodrama, and its silly conceits, there is relatively little for which The Avenging Fist can be recommended. It may not be unwatchable, but it is pretty bad.

Review by Keith Allen

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