The South Korean film 'Fists of Legend' by director Kang Woo-suk might look like a forgettable cheesy action flick on the outside, but in reality, this great little Korean film plays out a little like 'Rocky'. Instead of moving from action beat to action beat with sub-par filler in between, Kang gives us a solid story with fleshed out characters and some excellent performances. Sure, there are some great action sequences and fight scenes during the 153 minute run-time, but this is more about the aspect of why we fight, and the consequences it has on us later in life.
Kang allows us to explore the morals and ideals of marital arts on each side of the spectrum, meaning we get to see the positive and negative outcomes of growing up with martial arts. The main backdrop of 'Fists of Legend' is a new reality show that mixes the UFC with the likes of 'American Idol'. The lady in charge of the show is Hong Gyu-min (Lee Yo-won), who has created a TV program where fighters go up against one another in a competition to see who is the best fighter.
However, she chooses a fighter named Lim Deok-kyu (Hwang Jung-min), who is a much older man who runs a noodle shop un order to support his troubled daughter. The noodle business isn't going so well, so Lim decides to be a contestant on the show. Little does anyone know that he was one of the best fighters about thirty years ago and utterly destroys his first opponent. This sends the show's ratings through the roof and Lim's restaurant is now packed with customers.
Here is where the director inserts some lengthy flashbacks that shows us who Lim was back in the day. We find out that he was going to be part of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but him and his friends ended up in jail before the games could begin. In present day, Hong enlists Lim's friends from his past to compete in this reality show for a large sum of money. Now these three friends must work through their differences and face their tough pasts with one another in order to win the grand prize and respect.
There is also an underlying tone of social class and financial gain at work here too. We see how some of the characters were brought up in different backgrounds, and how they have managed to become either an honorable and noble person, or a low-life criminal. But one thing is for certain. Although Kang might allow his protagonists win the day, in the end, the bad elements are still there and winning the overall fight. If you're nervous about the 131 minute time-frame, don't be.
This gives us plenty of time to dissect each character and truly see where they are coming from. So often, when these types of movies are released, we don't get enough time with character development. We only receive big explosions and average fight scenes, which are usually forgettable within the hour. But with 'Fists of Legend', the time is given so that we get a sense of the true hardships of these characters, warts and all. This is a great little film.
'Fists of Legend' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The detail is always very sharp with well-defined closeups of the actor's aging faces that shows wrinkles and scars very well. Even individual hairs can be seen. There is a good amount of depth here too that gives us a sense of just how small the ring is these guys fight in.
The colors are well-saturated and when we are not live in the studio during the filming of the reality show, the colors are more realistic, as to separate just how glossy and "fake the reality shows are. It was a nice touch. The skin tones are always natural with some deep and inky black levels. Even during the heavier fight scenes, there was no evidence of aliasing, banding, or other compression issues. This is a solid video presentation.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix, which you can choose to listen to in Korean with English subtitles or in an English dubbed version. I suggest the subtitled one. There is also PCM 2.0 stereo tracks for each option as well. On the back of the cover it says these audio options are in Dolby Digital, but that is wrong, just like the spacing error in the synopsis for the film on the back cover.
The dialogue is always crystal clear and perfectly situated on the center channel. The sound effects and ambient noises of the crowds, and hits each fighter takes are robust and full. The surrounds do a good job of keeping things lively and loud. And just like I mentioned 'Rocky' above, you will hear a familiar song, which sounds great. There are no pops, cracks, or hissing with this audio presentation, which comes with a wide dynamic range.
'Fists of Legend' is a fresh take on the MMA genre. Sure, it's a bit long, but it's worth the time as we get really invested into the characters. The fight choreography is done very well and each actor gives a solid performance. The video and audio presentations are solid with a couple of decent extras. If you're a fan of films like 'Rocky' and enjoy watching mixed martial arts, then by all means pick up 'Fists of Legend'.