Lee played Chen Zhen in his second movie, 1972's Fist of Fury. Li played him in the 1994 remake of that movie, Fist of Legend. Yen takes on the role in 2010's Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (its U.S. release was in 2011), set in Shanghai in the 1920s when internal fighting among Chinese warlords was leaving the country open to the eventual invasion by Japan.
After the events of Fist of Legend, wanted man Chen has returned to Shanghai using the identity of Qi Tianyuan, a fallen fellow soldier. As Qi, he becomes friends and business partners with Liu Yutian, owner of the Casablanca nightclub. Since the Casablanca club is popular with Shanghai's foreign population, Chen uses it as a base to spy on the Japanese and the British who are jockeying for power in China by playing its factions against each other. One night, in order to thwart the attempted assassination of a Chinese general by agents of Japanese spymaster Colonel Chikaraishi Takeshi, Chen dons a mask and suit and fights them off. Soon The Masked Warrior becomes a hero to the people of Shanghai who are being squeezed more and more by Japanese pressure. As Qi, he is also developing a romance with the Casablanca club's lead singer, Kiki -- who may be something different than she seems.
Because of its focus on the fight sequences, Legend of the Fist can make a viewer look past the solid acting by its cast, especially Yen, Shu Qi as Kiki and Huang Ho as a police inspector who is in on Chen's secret. Director Andrew Lau includes several nice touches -- a group of Japanese officers in the Casablanca club call for a Japanese song from Kiki, only to be interrupted by a French song played by Chen, much like the singing German officers are interrupted by "La Marseillaise" in the movie Casablanca. The costume Chen wears to fight against the Japanese assassins is modeled on the Kato costume Bruce Lee wore in The Green Hornet TV series. And Lau tries very hard to blend martial arts movie, spy thriller and a straight up film noir into one story -- coming pretty close to pulling it off.
But in the end he and the cast fail, mostly because Legend of the Fist tries to mix too many characters and too many subplots into its action. Colonel Takeshi's plots and plans are ridiculously complex and hinge on twists and turns that eventually lead nowhere. It's stylish, flashy and fightin' fun, but doesn't come out a winner in the end.