New Fist of Fury is typical of a Lo Wei film, it lacks cohesion and character with an overuse of plot elements. The film starts after the destruction of the Ching Wu School in Shanghai. The remnants of the school, led by the delightful Miss Lee (Nora Miao), are forced to flee to Taiwan to avoid persecution from the Japanese. She will stay with her grandfather Su Onli who is the head of a martial arts school. Unfortunately, the Japanese are ubiquitous in Taiwan too. When her group arrives, they are the target of a thief Helong (Jackie Chan) and his companion Old Chin (Hon Siu). Helong (Ah Lung in some translations) steals a wooden box containing the prize weapon of the late Brother Chen (Bruce Lee in the superior Fist of Fury) nun-chucks.
Later, after Helong is found in a ditch beaten half-to-death by the students of Chin Ching Kai, he is found by Miss Lee's group and is nursed back to health (with the help of his prostitute mother's money, whom he does not know.) For all of this help and their forgiveness of him stealing their property, he refuses to learn Kung Fu so he can continuously be beaten up. Miss Lee has bigger problems than trying to get Helong to learn Kung Fu the Japanese occupancy.
Akumora (played by the muscular Chan Sing) is the Japanese provincial leader who wants to combine the Chinese martial art schools under his Di Wah school. There is a great scene with him catching a knife in his teeth and then throwing it from his mouth killing an attacker. It is so hard to take this scene seriously, but it reminded me what Ed Wood might have done if he directed a Kung Fu film. Akumora is an interesting character that starts off semi-decent and then ends up completely anti-Chinese ("I kill Chinese, just like I kill dogs.") This is another annoyance with the film; it is completely ethnocentric with one-dimensional Japanese characters. This annoyance is especially evident when Akumora challenges a staged Kwong Gung, stating that the Japanese heroes are much better than Chinese's heroes. This infuriates Master Su during his 80th birthday celebration and leads to his death (when he jumps over a large crowd of people and apparently has a heart attack.) With the death of Master Su, Miss Lee decides to revive the Ching Wu School. This leads to an obvious clash with the Di Wah School.
One of the biggest problems with this film (yes even worse than the ever-yelling Jen Da So, the kiai spewing daughter of Akumora) is that Jackie is misused and miscast in this film. He constantly gets beat up by both Japanese and Chinese and yet refuses to learn Kung Fu. He does not get a decent fight scene until at least three-fourths of the film is over and yet he obtained his skills in just a few days (it is amazing what anti-Japanese sentiment can make you accomplish). When he does fight, his skills are quite evident. Jackie is very acrobatic and his fight scenes flow well though he is relegated to using actors who are weak in martial arts (with a few exceptions like Han Ying Chieh) and they slow down many of the action scenes.
I am a fan of Jackie Chan (and many of the HK films of this era), but this is not a film that rises above mediocrity. While it is not worse than many films during the 70's it has a few negative attributes that will doggedly follow it -- New Fist of Fury followed one of the most beloved of Bruce Lee films with a weak sequel and misused a future Hong Kong Superstar. Useless Tidbit: look for a small cameo role for Lo Wei where he portrays an inspector.