Archive for Donnie Yen
This is a somewhat short video I made using some of my favorite scenes from some of my favorite Martial Arts movies. The clips here are Flashpoint, Ip Man 1 and 2, Fist Of Legend, Gorgeous and Drunken Master. Once again please forgive my video quality, unless you want to donate to the “I am too poor to afford decent editing equipment” fund.
Chances are if you have read this blog before you know that I am a huge fan of Martial Arts movies. Throughout my life I have seen numerous Martial Arts films from Steven Seagal (yes I do consider some of his films martial arts films) to Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan but it hasn’t been until recent years in which I have been able to gain a true appreciation for the art so I want to countdown my top 5 favorite Martial Arts movies that define how I look at the genre.
5.Fist Of Legend
who could have a martial arts top 5 without listing a movie with one of the most gifted and technically trained martial artists in the business? Jet Li was first introduced on an international level with Lethal Weapon 4 but in China he was already well known starring in movies such as Once Upon A Time In China and Twin Warriors but something stands out for me in this 1994 remake of the famous Bruce Lee movie Fist Of Fury. While it may not have the most original plot or characters this movie is probably one of the best displays of just straightforward Martial Arts. Taking place in Japanese occupied China, Jet Li’s character the all too familiar Chen Zhen is studying at a Japanese school when news arrives to him that his martial arts master has been killed in a duel so naturally he travels back to China to battle the corrupt unjust Imperial Japanese regime by kicking the ever loving bejesus out of every Japanese martial artist he sees. Shortly after his arrival he is exiled from his school due to infighting and the fact that he has a Japanese girlfriend and so begins the story of his epic noble fight against the Japanese which ultimately turns in to a one on one with a Japanese general (which includes a very good fight scene with belt).While there is a bit of wire fu here and there (but EXTREMELY sparsely intertwined) the majority is just straight forward bare knuckle action and the displays of ability by a rather young Jet Li are nothing short of astounding. If I am not mistaken Yuen Woo Ping had his hands in this movie which is rather surprising given the year in which this movie was made and how sparse the wire fu in it is. I get the feeling that because of this film being a remake of a film so beloved by fans they wanted to stay much truer to a Bruce Lee style approach. Whatever the reason the no nonsense approach makes this film one of the best of the genre in my opinion and great for anyone who isn’t looking for a lot of fancy high flying.
What do you get when you take two of Martial Arts most celebrated names and put them together? you get the very essence of the Kung Fu comedy genre. There is nothing quite like the combination of Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo Ping when it comes to ANY genre. This movie came out around 1978 which was a time when the market for Martial Arts movies was over saturated with Bruce Lee clones and clone movies as a matter of fact most of Jackie Chan’s early starring roles were basically meant to leech off of the success of the Bruce Lee films it wasn’t until the mild success of Snake In the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master that Jackie Chan had created the art of mixing comedy with Martial Arts action. Jackie Chan plays a young miscreant Martial Arts student who is such a trouble maker that his father decides that he should go train with a mysterious Kung Fu master who is known for his brutality in both combat and training but when Chan is quickly surprised to find that his teacher is a sloppy clown-like drunk who cares about little more than his gourd of rice wine which he carries around with him at all times and so the hilarity ensues as Chan and Ping both find themselves fighting other Martial Artists culminating in a battle with the dreaded assassin Thunderfoot . This is one of those movies I could watch over and over again and never get bored with it. It has amazing choreographed fight scenes and the comedy is never really too over the top. It’s slapstick Kung Fu that is quick and memorable. Every fight scene will have you either laughing or enjoying the great action and pacing. Rush Hour was good for its time but there is no better movie for the King Of Kung Fu Comedy than Drunken Master, by far probably the best display of Jackie Chan ever recorded.
(by the way because the movie is largely public domain you can watch it for free on Youtube so check it out)
3. Ip Man 1 And 2
When it comes to great straight forward martial arts with exciting action and choreography there are few better than Sammo Hung. I am not going to go in to how great these two movies are because I have reviewed them but I will focus on the reason they made this list. Ip Man is the movie that I saw that basically ignited my love for the genre I remember seeing a preview of this movie on a movie I was watching and I remember thinking being completely blown away by it, I knew I HAD to find and watch this movie. So when I was walking through Walmart I happened across it and picked it up being a little apprehensive because I had remembered always being sort of bored with Martial Arts movies when I was a kid. I had always kind of taken them as formulaic a bunch of bad guys surround a hero and that hero takes them all on one at a time until they are all a bloodied mess but when I sat down and watched it I found a very different movie. Not only did this movie have a very moving story and actual acting in it but this movie had some of the most intensely choreographed fight scenes I had ever seen. Donnie Yen was just lightning fast as he takes on a horde of ten Japanese soldiers all at once. The story here is much similar to the story of Fist Of Legend and many other Martial Arts movies but the acting is so good and the action is so unique that you feel as though it is a different story entirely. Ip Man 2 is the first sequel where I can honestly say that it is just as good as the first. The storyline is very cliched and used BUT once again the acting is so good and the action is so unparalleled that you would swear you were watching something new. It is similar in story to movies like Fearless but where it differs is that it has such straight forward action with little slow motion or wires that you find yourself absolutely enthralled by a story you have seen countless time. This is the movie that proved to me that Martial Arts doesn’t always stay in those typical tropes.
2.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Once again Yuen Woo Ping dominates the list with yet another movie. Once again this is a movie that I have already reviewed so there isn’t too much more I can really say about it. It’s the perfect blend of Martial Arts, acting, and story telling. It’s simply enthralling from beginning to end. It’s been copied, it’s been parodied but has never been matched. This is the movie that breaks all barriers for the genre. period.
1. Enter The Dragon
Were you expecting someone different at the top of my list? How in the world could you even say the word Martial Arts without thinking of Bruce Lee, the man who basically defined the entire genre and made it what it is today. Without Bruce I seriously doubt Martial Arts would have any place in America. Enter The Dragon was the last film completed before Lee’s untimely death. it is definitely my favorite because it epitomizes that 70s style but has a lot of really cool martial arts scenes to go with it. The basic plotline is that of your average tournament fighter game. Lee plays a special agent who is going under cover at a Martial Arts tournament held by an evil master whose company is moonlighting in selling drugs or guns…or…whatever. Chances are you won’t really care all THAT much about the plotline as much as the action itself and the atmosphere. Enter The Dragon has the number one spot because it was the first Martial Arts movie I can remember watching and the far reaching influence is astounding. I remember really liking it and thinking it was an interesting movie and at the time I had NO idea who Bruce Lee was I just knew that the fight scenes were pretty cool, the story wasn’t half bad and the atmosphere was unforgettable. The scene I remember most is probably the one scene that has been parodied and copied the most. The ending fight scene in the room full of mirrors in which our one armed evil master is ripping Lee to shreds with his metal claw prosthesis. I remember thinking it was one of the most clever scenes I had ever seen in a movie (even though for the time the whole room of mirrors cliche was a bit over used) but I remember being completely enthralled by the way Bruce Lee moved and fought. I wouldn’t call this movie his best display of ability by any means probably the best would be Way Of The Dragon BUT it is one of the ones he is best remembered for and definitely a great buy for any Martial Arts collection. It can be found for around $5.00 in any bargain bin so I would suggest giving it a try and taking yourself back to the past for cheesy dialogue, even cheesier looks and some of my favorite fight scenes ever recorded.
What do you get when you cross great action, stunning visuals and some of the best storywriting known to the silverscreen? Martial Arts movies. nothing picks up my spirits better than a great Martial Arts epic. Martial Arts movies have been around pretty much since the advent of film making but didn’t really become popular until the advent of martial arts epics of the 1960s-1980s with Shaw Brothers films and of course the dragon himself Bruce Lee who pretty much widely popularized the genre and made the world recognize how truly viable a market the martial art film could be but there are still some really great titles to come out of the last few years to show that the genre is still as relavent today as it was then with action stars such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Chow Yun Fat, Tony Ja, and so many more that have done Martial arts films and done them incredibly well. So here are a few movies you might consider or in some cases probably pass on.
There is one name that should really seal the deal on whether or not to pick up a copy of this movie Yuen Woo Ping. Now for anyone who has never picked up a martial arts or action film in their entire movie Yuen Woo Ping is one of Hollywoods leading action choreographers and the list of movies he has done work on is innumerable not to mention his work is of such great calibur that I would dare say he is one of if not THE greatest fight choreographers of ALL time. He has done fight work on everything from Kill Bill to The Matrix and has been in the business since the late 70s working with such stars as Jackie Chan in one of his most famous titles Drunken Master (not to be confused with Legend Of The Drunken Master which has no ties to Yuen Woo Ping at all). The basic plotline here is that Su, a famed war hero, returns home from the war after graciously turning down a position as governor of a province which he gives to his adoptive brother Yuan. A few years after the war Yuan comes back seeking revenge against his adoptive father for killing his biological father in a martial arts battle. Su’s world is torn apart when his son is kidnapped by Yuan and he must now train to go get him back.
What can I say about True Legend other than it is yet another flawless martial arts endeavor. The fight scenes in this movie are absolutely superb and I was genuinely surprised at just how well they were thought out as opposed to some of the scenes he is known for in more recent years in that classic wire-fu style he is known for (particularly on movies like Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon) but this movie genuinely shows that Yuen Woo Ping is far more capable as a martial arts choreographer than just some simple flying around on wires. The wires are actually rarely used (but when I say rarely I mean just not as excessively as his more recent movies) and the fights feel organic and more like an actual display of Martial Arts ability. The movie is visually stunning and I think that can be said about all of Yuen Woo Ping’s films…they all have their own unique feel and style but they are all very much him. What I really enjoyed is that there are a few parts that employ CGI but what I really love is that it never feels too forced and campy like a lot of movies that incorporate CG into the action. The one scene that it does feel sort of odd is in the dream sequence of the main character Su and even then it is made pretty obvious that it is a dream sequence so they know that it is pretty much all fictional. Over all this is another superb film to add to the long list of Yuen Woo Ping’s accomplishments and a definite MUST SEE for anyone who loves or is looking to fall in love with the Martial Arts genre.
Jackie Chan Kung Fu Master
Here is a perfect example of a film that just rides on the coat tails of someone else’s success as an actor. Much like the movie Sidekicks was a blatant Chuck Norris exploitation film, this movie is a Jackie Chan exploitation film. This is one of those movies that makes me so absolutely angry at Walmart for making me want to buy this movie. I want to take a moment for you to examine this cover.
Now tell me what would be your first thoughts of seeing this on a shelf at Walmart? LOOK AT THIS FREAKING THING! it’s got Jackie Chan’s name plastered on top of it, his picture dominates the foreground and even on the back the biggest picture is Jackie Chan surrounded by martial artists that aren’t even in this movie. What in the world would lead you to believe the main story of this movie is a little kid who wants to meet Jackie Chan…the title of the movie is JACKIE CHAN Kung Fu Master. Jackie Chan is in this movie for about 15 to 20 minutes of the most lazy fight scenes ever choreographed and that is about it. I was so annoyed at the fact that Jackie Chan wasn’t in most of it that I almost decided not to watch it. If the movie says Jackie Chan and he is the headlining actor MAKE FREAKING SURE he is not just in it for 20 minutes. That is like if they put Sylvester Stallone in a Rambo movie for about 5 minutes then labeled Stallone as the main attraction. This DVD cover looks like something I put together when I worked in the Sign Lab in High School. They just slapped Jackie Chan’s name on it found some random Google pictures of him (which both of the protruding pictures aren’t even from the movie) and threw it out there with a $7.50 price tag. To be honest the ONLY thing that redeemed this movie is that there are a few pretty cool little martial arts scenes in it from the kid who is the main character. The story line is decent but seems more like something torn more from a Chinese after school special than what a movie should be. It’s basically Jackie Chan saying ‘Stay In School!’. If you see this movie on the shelf at walmart and see the low price tag and think “Yeah a Jackie Chan movie for only $7.50″ DON’T waste your money. However there is a double pack featuring Mr. Nice Guy and Jackie Chan’s First Strike which is about $10.00 which would be the WAY better option. If you see this movie online on Netflix or at the Redbox give it a quick watch only for the fight scenes from all the other actors BUT if you are looking for a Jackie Chan movie you should most definitely look somewhere else.
Ip Man and Ip Man 2
I know it is a little cheap to put two movies together but for me you really can’t see one without the other. This is one of those movies that comes along and just really surprises you as far as the quality of martial arts and the story line. the story of Ip Man is based on the grandmaster of Wing Chun and real life mentor to Bruce Lee. That is really all you need to know as far as the plot. It’s a docudrama/martial arts film and really does justice to both genres. The fight scenes are absolutely draw dropping and visually stunning and have that flowing style yet are visceral and real as it comes. Donnie Yen is an absolute powerhouse in this movie as a martial artist. His speed and skill are simply unmatched and he exemplifies precision in technique. Sammo Hung (who did the choreography for both films) does an excellent job in Ip Man 2 despite his rather large size and really the entire cast does an excellent job at their chosen martial art.
I think one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of these two movies is the acting. Typically for a Martial Arts film you either have one or the other, great acting or great fighting but Donnie Yen does an excellent job at making you get involved with the character of Ip Man. The supporting cast is absolutely brilliant as well, Particularly in the first film. The wife (who is played by one of the most gorgeous actresses I have ever seen) is probably one of the breakout performers and really just plays the part perfectly. The subtlety she displays with her eyes and facial expressions is just amazing and given that her dialgoue is rather limited the expressions of her character mean everything. General Miura is one of my favorite characters because he embodies the warrior and at times comes across as genuinely intimidating in his role. One of my favorite scenes is when he brings food to Ip in prison and General Miura is speaking Japanese and Ip is speaking Chinese and you can feel the intensity between them both as they speak to each other yet they don’t really understand each other’s language BUT their actions and body language say it all. THAT takes good acting. over all both movies are great for any martial arts enthusiast or someone just looking for a great action movie with a great cast and story.
BKO: Bangkok Knockout
In recent years there has been a surge of martial arts movies coming from Thailand and with the growing popularity of MMA like WEC and UFC it has cemented Muay Thai as one of the top brances of martial arts. Thai martial arts films have been around since the 70s and 80s but have just kind of started getting a good foothold in america with movies like The Protector and Ong-Bak and has given hollywood a few great action stars and stunt coordinators like Johnny Tri Nguyen and Tony Jaa. BKO is a prime example of some of the great things about Thai martial arts. Directed by the master of Thai action movies Panna Ritikari (who is the mentor to Tony Jaa) the basic premise is that two teams of martial artists are competing to for the chance to become action stars but something goes awry when Pod’s team (yes the lead character’s name is Pod, although I don’t know if you could really call him the lead) wins but wakes up the next morning trapped in a strange building and surrounded by cameras. Then our villains stroll out of the darkness and quickly explain the Running Man reminiscent plot (minus the Arnold, which I can’t tell if that’s good or bad) as they are now in a game fighting for their lives. That’s really it…it’s really got no surprises nor does it really even TRY to stray away from the 80s action movie cliches (given the director I am not really surprised). They did try to sprinkle in a few plot points that were supposed to involve you in the characters but it really didn’t matter, this is one of those movies that is just all about the action and it has plenty. The problem I found was that it took FOREVER for the action to actually start. The movie clocks in at around 106 minutes and I would estimate the first half hour of it is just them setting up the story. Really? it took you that long to set up this overly used overly cliched story? I would hate to see this movie it were original. The fighting sequences are kind of slow which is really indicative of the fact that it is a Thai martial arts film… some of the fighting scenes seem way to0 choreographed and almost robotic but there are some moments that are genuinely surprising. I think that is the main problem with Thai martial arts films is that they lack the fluidity of traditional Chinese martial arts films. For as much as I complain this movie is actually pretty good as far as fight sequences go and of course features that whole acrobatics and incredible stunt work that make Thai action films worth watching. I would have to say that overall I truly enjoyed this film more than any of the other Thai films I have seen INCLUDING Ong-Bak (I haven’t seen 3 but I hear it’s not worth it) Clash (Veronic Ngo made that movie for me BUT a pretty face doesn’t help mediocre choreography) and The Protector (I didn’t mention the Spirited Killer trilogy because I don’t want to admit that I actually sat through one of those). If you are patient then give this movie a try its pace is kind of slow but once it gains momentum it’s quite enjoyable.