At this point in cinema's history, I feel like a lot of the complaints both critics and audiences make about a lack of originality are kind of missing the point. To begin with (and depending on who you ask), there are only so many kinds of stories that can be told, regardless of the details that distinguish similar ones from one another. But more importantly, what people are typically focusing on is what happens in these stories, rather than how they are told, meaning how creatively, with how much technical competence, or even who's telling them, all of which are the real measures that distinguish remakes from originals, sequels from set-ups, and generally speaking, bad movies of almost any genre from good ones. And this is especially true in dedicated genre films, where quite literally the difference between a triumph and a piece of trash is who stars in it, the name of the person behind the camera, or the matter of degrees in which one movie differs in the way it does the otherwise exact same thing as every one before it.
By all superficial measures, 'Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen' is entirely unoriginal – a remake of a story of a mythic Chinese hero told at least two times before in what are arguably both considered "definitive" film versions. And yet, without even considering the likelihood that many viewers haven't seen Bruce Lee's 'The Chinese Connection' or Jet Li's 'Fist of Legend,' the film feels fresh, exciting, modern and yes, original, thanks to the dexterous efforts of director Andy Lau ('Infernal Affairs') and star Donnie Yen ('Hero') to sufficiently evoke its predecessors and yet forage into new territory in terms of both form and content.