Story: When still going to school Lim Deok-gyu (Hwang Jeong-min) had good prospects of entering the Olympic Games as a boxer. 25 years
later he is a single father who just gets by with a noodle shop he owns. Business is pretty bad when one day he is approached by female producer Kyu-min
(Lee Yo-won) who produces a show in which amateur fighters compete against MMA-professionals for a prize money. Deok-gyu lets himself getting talked into
participating and he wins. He becomes a nationwide sensation over night, but he doesn't want to appear in the show again. However, he meets his old friend
Jae-seok (Yoon Je-moon) through the show who now makes a living as a low-life criminal. Deok-gyu is taken back into his past, in which he made quite some
mistakes, because life didn't treat him fairly. His situation becomes more difficult when Sang-hoon (Yoo Joon-sang), also a former friend of his, enters the
stage. All of his life Sang-hoon has done what he was told to by others but now the show gives him the opportunity to become independent. Kyu-min on the other
hand has just one goal: Making the three friends compete against each other in her show...
Review: As not to be expected otherwise "Fists of Legend" doesn't turn out to be a mindless MMA-movie, but a well done action flick that
manages to illuminate its characters in a satisfying manner in order to put the drama revolving around the individuals into the spotlight, too. Without
spoilering I might also add that the movie doesn't turn unnecessarily drama-heavy at the last minute as so many other Korean works do. "Fists of Legend"
remains a tough action movie at all times and proves to have a big heart as well. Mainly responsible for the success of the well written screenplay is Hwang
Jeong-min, who also cuts a fine figure in the fight scenes. Consequently, the movie is able to win over MMA-fans as well as those who simply like Korean
The idea that a man past his 40s wants to prove himself in life one last time by stepping into the ring isn't new. Only a while ago Dante Lam also tackled the
subject impressivily in "Unbeatable". And that movie also dealt with a Mixed Martial Arts contest. In "Fists of Legend",
not to be mistaken with the Jet Li classic "Fist of Legend", amateurs are put into the focus, though. Yet, that doesn't mean
that the fights turn out to be boring. On the contrary. Nonetheless, the in-ring skirmishes aren't as bloody and brutal as they could have been, although the
film still was Rated R in South Korea. And a good portion of the film actually takes place in a ring, which is why it would have been fatal had the fights not
worked out. Luckily, the filmmakers didn't take any risks and hired Jeong Doo-hong ("The City of Violence") for doing
Hwang Jeong-Min ("New World", "Moby Dick") convinces as a boxer, although at first you might not
have thought this to be possible considering his physique. However, his movements are fluid and without much unnecessary jumping around, so that it's easy
to believe that he embodies a near-professional boxer. Hwang's skills as an actor are without question anyway and as not to be expected otherwise he once
again delivers good work. But after all the story doesn't just revolve around Deok-gyu, but around his two friends who he hasn't seen for 25 years, too.
Yoon Je-moon ("Quick") plays a man who has done a lot of bad things in his life, yet kept his heart at the right place.
Yoo Joon-sang ("Return") embodies someone who served others all his life and finally, although involuntarily, finds the strength
to change his life.
Even though you might get suckered in to believe that at first Deok-gyu hasn't always been a nice guy. As things progress we find out that back then he was everything but a choirboy. "Fists of Legend" is parallely told in flashbacks and this in such a clever way that it actually enriches the story of the present timeline and also makes the characters seem more vivid. Next to all this the movie also deals with what it means to be excluded and still find your way in life by adding the subplot of Deok-gyu's daughter. In this respect Deok-gyu and his daughter are very similar, only that it took the father a little bit longer to figure out where he wants to go on life. Thanks to that form of narration this action drama also is a movie about growing up and maturation.
With a running time of 150 minutes "Fists of Legend" easily could have run the risk of becoming lengthy. Fortunately, the film merely feels like a two-hours-movie since there is almost nothing that could have been cut from the movie without depriving the story of some of its impact. Director Kang Woo-seok isn't a no-name at all as he has already brought to screen "Moss" and "Silmido". Thanks to outstanding actors and a good story that is accompanied by some MMA fights you can give his work the thumbs-up without hesitation. However, especially the other two protagonists should have been fleshed out a bit more in order to justify a better rating. But that is complaining on a high level and shouldn't keep anyone from watching this movie.