This mid-'70s LoWei Kung Fu flick comes from the very earliest period in Jackie Chan's screen career when, rather improbably in retrospect, the young Opera School graduate was being apprenticed as the new Bruce Lee! So, about two thirds into the movie we see the now familiar cheeky long-haired persona transformed into a lean, mean, highly-toned fighting machine after being trained-up by the charmingly named Nora Miao in the art of Lee's own "Fist of Fury" technique. It's ironic of course that the old cheeky chappie character would eventually be the one that would charm audiences around the world once Chan himself had escaped from the iron grip of Lo Wei productions. Seeing him with the iconic Bruce Lee hairstyle, striking the same posses as the star, is rather an odd spectacle considering how famous and iconic Chan has since become himself! The story of "New Fist of Fury" is so familiar from other (much better) Lo Wei flicks from the same period, that it hardly needs any reiteration. It's the usual sketchy plot-line recycled for the umpteenth time: rival Kung Fu schools are manipulated by Japanese occupiers into warring against each-other.
The film begins with fugitive Ching Hua (Nora Miao) escaping with the surviving members of the Jin Wing school of Kung Fu from Shanghai, and turning up in Taiwan -- which seems a trifle pointless since Taiwan is also under Japanese yoke! Here we also find Jackie Chan as a petty thief called Ah Lung who scrapes his living, along with his comical uncle, from hanging around the docks stealing from new arrivals as they come off the boats. The version of the film we have been given on Hong Kong Legend's (so called) Super Bit edition has been quite drastically edited for international release compared to the original. The most obvious indicator of this is that the main feature is completely missing the opening sequence depicting Ching Hua's flight from Shanghai, and instead begins with the opening titles (and title music) playing out over the first scene between Ah Lung and his uncle. That was meant to be a comedy scene (and you can still see it as such in the disc's only extra feature, which also includes that original opening), but with the sound blanked out and incongruous dramatic music playing over the top of it, it just looks like a total mess, and hardly prepares the viewer for a satisfying, coherent viewing experience!
Chan manages to steal a box from one of Ching Hua's men, but is disappointed to discover that it contains nothing more valuable than a pair of nunchukas! He decides to try and flog them to one of the local Kung Fu schools -- but when he learns that the Chan Sing school are loyal to Taiwan's Japanese overlords, he changes his mind, and ends up in a brawl with some of their best fighters. You see, Ah Lung just hates those "Japs" (as he so anachronistically describes them), which is okay because the Japanese goons have utter contempt for those lousy "Chinks" ('70s cinema! -- those were the days, eh?). The trouble is, Ah Lung also has an antipathy towards Kung Fu and has never been tempted to learn it, which is why he is comprehensively thrashed to within an inch of his life by the Chan Sing masters -- his attempts to put the nunchakus to good use resulting only in his managing to smack himself full in the face with them! -- a sequence that is more painful to watch than funny!
Ah Lung's fortunes change though when he is discovered bleeding by the side of the road by Ching and her followers. They are setting up the Jin Wing school again, and want new recruits from the local Taiwanese population. Chan's hatred of Kung Fu is overcome and he becomes their star pupil (in a matter of minutes, it seems) -- so much so that they make him the new possessor of the lethal Fist of Fury technique! Predictably, the Chan Sing school's head is not too happy about these interlopers coming along, and first colludes with the Japanese authorities to try and get the suspected mainland rebels captured, and then calls a general meeting between all the representatives of the varying schools of Kung Fu, which turns out to be simply a method of disposing of anyone who is not willing to merge with the state-approved school. Heavy-handed politics aside, the final twenty minutes are an exciting smack-down in which we see everybody completely decimated by the evil Chang Sing, until Chan and Miao step up to the plate. The film, in a genre known for its sudden endings, cuts off with one of the most unexpected and random final sequence in the history of Kung Fu cinema.
That final sequence is classic King Fu excitement, but boy is it a slog getting there, sometimes! The film is completely stuffed with pointless plot points that are never expanded. Chief among them is the back story concerning Ah Lung's mother, whom he believes to be dead, but who is actually the lover of the hated Japanese collaborator in charge of Chan Sing! You'd think that a sub-plot that explosive would be a major theme of the film, but, in fact, after its being revealed to the audience, it is never mentioned again! Performances are as variable and overstated as is the norm in the genre, but the film as a whole simply never really gets going until the very end, and then seems to be over just as soon as the real action is threatening to begin.
The UK disc from Hong Kong Legends offers a fairly acceptable transfer and full 2.35:1 widescreen print, but it isn't up to the standard of past releases in their Super-Bit collection. The only extra is a grainy "alternative opening" that runs at around eight minutes. The viewer is offered the choice of 5.1 Mandarin and English audio tracks or the original mono Mandarin audio track. Removable English subtitles are provided.