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Born To Defend (1986)


This was Jet Li’s directorial debut. He also took the job of producing, choreographing and any other job he could get his hands on. However, due to health reasons his manager convinced him to concentrate on directing and choreographing the action scenes.

The story goes back to 1944 when Japan was fighting for greater East-Asian co-prosperity alliance. We see Jet Li as a member of a Chinese battalion fighting a heavily armed Japanese army. Now despite being out done in terms of armaments and numbers Jet Li defies the odds and puts up a darn good fight.

Nevertheless, this ends quickly and we are taken forward in time to 1945 when Asia was occupied by the Allied forces. Jet Li leads his army to a small Chinese fishing village well I presume it is as it is by the coast). Where a number of American sailors are enjoying occupying the town. When Jet leads his men into town, he is not very welcome as everyone is welcoming the Americans. (they are the ones who defeated the Japanese after all).
On his first day back into town an old Chinese man is run over by the American admiral (you don’t’ actually get to see his rank. But he is dressed like a general and I think an admiral is the highest navy rank going). The towns’ people are mortified by what they saw and try to get revenge.

However, it turns out the Americans are darn powerful and the admiral is one big bugger. It also turns out that the police are ignoring any mischief caused by the Americans. Therefore, it is up to Jet to sort them out.
Although many people do not’ like this film. I rather love it for its grittiness and realistic fight portrayal. Jet also managed to do a brilliant job fusing fights using Chinese Wu Shu and American Boxing. You also get to see Jet using himself to his full potential and if I am not mistaken, no wires were used, which you do not get to see until he done ‘Hitman’ which was made about 12 years later.
A drawback for many people is the darkness of the film. This is either due to neglect of the original print and a failure to remaster or Jet did it intentionally to show this was a dark part of Chinese history. Another low point is the actors playing the Americans doing a bad job and the after dubbing job given to them. Nevertheless, to be honest I like my gwai lo’s to be evil. I want to see them do evil things and get their comeuppance at the end  from the hero.
Overall a good watch. Recommended for fans of Jet Li and the 80’s style HK film.

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