Born to Defence (1986)

Posted in Reviews by - May 30, 2014
Born to Defence (1986)

Jet Li‘s first and (so far) only film as director and star is a muddled Second World War drama which sees the young hero return from the front line – where he has been killing Japanese soldiers in a spectacularly acrobatic and gung ho fashion – to a China overrun by obnoxious western allies in cahoots with the local constabulary. Li reunites with an old friend and covers his shifts as a rickshaw driver when times are tough, only to face a bullying group of American navy louts. They destroy his rickshaw, which sets in motion a pattern of escalating violence until the usually cheery, fresh-faced Jet is shoving people into industrial furnaces and causing GBH with a chain whip – a far cry from his famous naive monk persona. But the staged fight scenes are particularly good: one in particular where Jet learns the hands-only rules of western boxing. The joke suggests that the ring is no place for Li’s remarkable wushu ability, and the film seems to support this notion. His flamboyant moves appear out of step with the post-war setting and tone. As director, Li – aged only 22 – struggled to complete the film following an injury to his nose, and choreographer Tsui Siu-ming was recruited to complete the rest. Despite its disjointed nature, the young Jet is still a joy to watch, even if the film is very formulaic.

AKA: Born to Defend; Born to DefenseFinal Fight

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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