My apprehension going into watch Fists of Legend was almost palpable. Billed
as a mixed martial arts melodrama that follows three middle-aged men take part in a televised fighting competition called ‘Legendary Punch’, the basis of which is that they used to go to school together and had reputations based on their fierce fighting skills, it’s difficult to figure out exactly who is the movies target demographic.
Furthermore, the MMA style that sporting competitions like UFC have made so popular has yet to really successfully transfer onto the big screen. While watching two sweaty men withering around on top of each other in an actual real match is exciting and dangerous, as you have no idea what’s going to happen, watching it in a movie takes away that immediacy, stripping it of any tension. Lacking the rhythm and flow of old school kung-fu or the kinetic energy of kickboxing, MMA in comparison comes across as stifled and almost boring, as can be witnessed in any of the countless straight-to-DVD Tapout movies.
Still, while Fists of Legend seems like a questionable proposition from a story standpoint, the talent behind the production can’t be denied. Helmed by reliable commercial director Kang Woo-seok (‘Public Enemy / 공공의 적’, ‘Silmido / 실미도’), the three characters themselves are played by the always enjoyable Hwang Jeong-min (‘The New World / 신세계’, ‘The Unjust / 부당거래’), Yoon Je-moon (‘Boomerang Family / 고령화가족’ – also showing at the Film Festival!), & Hang Song-soo favourite Yoo Joong-sang (‘The Day He Arrives / 북촌 방향’, ‘Nobody’s Daughter Haewon / 누구의 딸도 아닌 해원’).