Review: Blind Fist of Bruce (1979)

Starring Bruce Li, Simon Yuen, Chiang Tao, Tiger Yuen, Lau Chan

Fight Choreography by Lui Han Ming

Directed by Kam Bo

After Bruce Lee died, Hong Kong cinema scrambled to replace him, and by that I do mean literally replacing Bruce, with a succession of actors who looked a little–or a lot–like Bruce, and could portray his attitude. They were never chosen to play a character, they were chosen because they could imitate Bruce. Bruce Li was one of the best of these, and perhaps his career would have been better if he had been able to forge his own identity, instead of being known forevermore as a Bruce Lee clone. Movies like the Blind Fist of Bruce shows that he could have been so much more.

The film opens as a group of baddies show up at the police headquarters of a small town and insist on speaking to the Captain, and of course his officers refuse, and proceed to take an butt-kicking from a group of guys who must have the phrase “fresh off a cop’s ass” tattooed on their forearms. The Captain reveals himself, and starts jacking up the gang before their leader Wei (Tao), who beats the Captain to death. This first fight is fairly slow and plodding, and I can only imagine it was done to make Bruce Li’s fights look better, but that’s hardly needed.

Meanwhile, two thugs show up to the local bank owned by Yeh Chen(Li), a good and fair banker who shows up with his two teachers to teach the thugs a lesson. When his teachers appear, if you watch enough kung-fu films then you know Yeh’s in deep shit. Whenever you see Lau Chan in a film you know what’s gonna happen, and if you can’t place the face here it is:

You now know two things: a) this asshole will betray the hero at some point, and b) he’ll get killed (usually by a kick or punch to the chest) and explode a blood capsule in his mouth, a really big one, and bleed profusely from the mouth as he dies, which he does to perfection in pretty much every film you ever see him in.

Okay, back to the film. Yeh does beat the two thugs, and we find out later that his two teachers are fake kung fu masters who pay to have random guys get their asses kicked by Yeh so they look like they are teaching him the good stuff, when he isn’t learning shit.  (You may recognize this as being a similar plot to Yuen Biao’s Prodigal Son) So of course the baddies show up, and when Yeh tries to fight them they beat the tar out of him, and then the gang proceeds to take over the entire town. While training in more fake kung-fu, because Yeh is both smart and dense at the same time, sees one of his teachers getting schooled by a blind old beggar (Simon Yuen) but doesn’t yet see this as proof that his teachers aren’t for shit. We then see the beggar defending his niece from Wei’s  two douchy sidekicks, and the blind beggar beats them up in a fun fight, even though we know that the person fighting is a stuntman and not Simon Yuen, who is the father of legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping. Simon sells everything in the scenes right before and after a fight, and that’s good enough. There’s a reason why he’s the quintessential Kung-Fu teacher in so many martial arts films.

Yeh goes back to get a rematch with Wei, and this time gets beaten so badly he is forced to sign his bank over to the gang, and fires his two teachers, who then go to Wei to join his gang (Lau Chan=betrayal. Check.) Yeh goes to the beggar and is able to convince him to teach him kung-fu, and he does so, but little does Yeh know that the real boss of the gang, Tiger, has a history with the blind beggar, and so the stage is set for revenge left, revenge right, everywhere revenge!

This is what I call a blood capsule kung-fu film, meaning that the fights can go on for days and you know when someone is actually dead for good when they bite down on that blood capsule and the blood free flows from their mouth. That’s like an indicator that yes, that dude is finally dead. The film starts out slowly and doesn’t really get going until the beggar shows up, but that’s to be expected since Bruce Li’s first few fights are fought as a guy who is learning fake kung-fu. Once he does learn from the beggar the fights get pretty good. Not as brutal as a Bruce Lee film but not that graceful, the fights do march to the beat of its own drummer thanks to Lui Han Ming’s fight choreography, which seems to have different tempos for each fight, and gives each of them a satisfying finish, which is something considering that there are a ton of fights in this film!

Bruce Li shows off great skills, and while he looks like Bruce and acts like him, Li doesn’t really try to fight like him, except in moments here and there. Chaing Tao, a veteran of many kung-fu films, does a great job as the Tiger’ second in command Wei, as does Tiger Yueng, who shows off some great forms as the main baddie.

Blind Fist of Bruce is a satisfying revenge film where everyone get’s what’s coming to them, and when the bad guy is killed they roll credits. No aftermath stuff, he dies, and it’s done. Fast food Kung-Fu at it’s best.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Due to the story constraints the fights are stilted in the beginning, but hits everything right the rest of the way.

STUNTWORK:(8) Simon Yuen’s stuntman deserves a raise, and everyone does a great job. Lau Chan is money in the bank. Viva fake blood capsules!

STAR POWER: (8) Bruce Li’s appreciation is starting to grow as his old films are revisited. In many ways Li carried the torch until the next wave of martial arts stars.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Bruce Li was never able to escape being seen as nothing more than the best of the Bruce Lee clones, but he has made few decent martial arts films that show that he could have been so much more.


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