Tuesday, December 29, 2009
10 Best Martial Arts movies of the decade!
Honorable mentions: House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower, Ashes of Time Redux, The Restless, Legend of the Black Scorpion, The Promise, Chocolate, Kiss of the Dragon, Ong Bak, Forbidden Kingdom.
The Rebel – Johnny Tri Nguyen got his start being a stunt double as the Green Goblin in spider-man. This movie cements his status as a star in the next generation of MA film stars. He not only starred in it but he co-wrote and directed this film too. Set in colonial 1922 Vietnam, this is the first action movie I've seen out of Nam. Dustin Nguyen (21 jump st) is also great as his boss in the police. Ngo Thanh Van is a love interest, but she has great MA scenes in the film as well. Great action, top notch.
The Protector – Thai actor Tony Jaa was excellent in Ong Bak, and it made him a star. If you are looking for pure fights that is your ticket. But this follow -up has more story, so it's a little cheezy with Jaa being the protector of an elephant. How can I not love martial arts ass whipping over a non human animal. The reason this makes the list is one scene which is worth the rental. A three story fight that was done in one building as Jaa climbs filmed in a single shot. Amazing.
Seven Swords: Master filmmaker Tusi Hark has had a rough decade after coming out strong with a fantastic off the hook action movie Time and Tide in 2000. Legend of Zu looked pretty but tanked and didn't make sense even after you read the back of the video box. Black Mask 2 sans Jet Li was embarrassing to watch. His big comeback film was supposed to be Seven Swords. It did alright, but not well enough to launch the sequel Hark had planned. He still insists he is making it. He also produced a TV show based on the same material.
Seven Swords is a Wuxia Pan kungfu fantasy based on the novel “Seven swordsmen of Mount Tian” by the same author who created the Bride with White Hair - Liang Yusheng. Hark tried to do some inserting things with the story, focused on the swords(title was changed for a reason) and shot the film different. I am in a minority who liked the film. The cheap-o sounding score is only thing I think hurts the movie. That may have in the 1993 hey day of HK cinema, but Wuxia Pan movies had graduated to have full scores with powerful takes on ancient Chinese music.
Donnie Yen is great, infact the whole cast is great, the fights are good and best of all is the crazy mohawked super goth villain with crazy wheat cutter sword. She is collecting the heads of suspected Martial Artists. The story takes place during the manchu take-over and is about the martial artist ban. Thumbs up here.
Brotherhood of the Wolf: Why is Mark Dacascos not a huge action movie star? With better career management he would have stayed out of the awful Cradle 2 tha Grave and would be a huge star now. This should have done it. He is amazing as a native american ass-kicker, Why this french man's native American Sidekick is martial artist is besides the point. This is weird arthouse french martial arts horror movie. Yes, werewolves and kungfu. It is not perfect, but boy is it fun. Actually I need to see this again.
Red Cliff: John Woo made a few amazing martial arts movies in his young career. Hand of Death with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chain and the amazing Shaw Brothers production “The Last Hurrah for Chivalry.” The rest is history he made genius action movies like Hard-Boiled and the Killer before crapping garbage like Paycheck and Mission Impossible II.
Yes Woo is back in china making an epic Wuxia Pan war movie based on the classical novel the Three Kingdoms. It has amazingly huge battles with seemless CGI and it has Woo's over the top action. What most impressed me is John Woo not doing his usual tricks. No slo-mo, and most all I was impressed that it didn't look like a John Woo movie. Impressive. Watch it on video so you can see the whole two part epic.
Fearless – Jet Li scared us all by saying this was his last Martial Arts movie. He was of course splitting hairs. None the less this is a passion project and epic MA movie. The Yuen Woo Ping fights are all amazing some of the best Li/Woo Ping fights since Fist of Legend. That is saying a lot since Fist is the best fights of Jet Li's career. This film is directed by Ronny Yu (Bride with White Hair/ Freddy Vs. Jason). Jet Li gives a fantastic performance that at times is heart breaking and uplifting.
The Warlords – After the stunning Wuxia Pan fantasy The Promise director Peter Chan (Which didn't make my list because I couldn't stand the looney tunes meets running of the bulls scene) followed it up with this bleak and realistic ancient china War drama. This has been an Asian film trend of late to do the bleak war movies. This is a remake of the Chang Cheh Shaw classic The Blood Brothers. Great cast with amazing performces by Andy Lau and Jet Li
As an actor Jet Li is more talented than he is given credit for. I first really began to notice it with his underrated performance in Kiss of the Dragon. Since this was Li's first film after Fearless much was made about Jet Li in an acting role. He does more acting than fighting but he does do his share of fighting in the movie. This is violent epic with more huge battles but it is the insanity of Jet Li's character that really carries this movie.
SPL - Released in the us under the cheezy title Killzone this Donnie Yen action drama is really badass. Sammo Hung is amazing a gangster who is a new father. Donnie Yen and Simon Yam are great as cops forced to work together As Simon Yam character is about to die from a terminal illness. His one regret is not jailing Sammo's character. Wilson Yip the director teases the auidence for the first forty minutes by showing the drama leading to the fights but not the fights.
When the fights come they are off the hook. You'll find it hard to believe Sammo at his age and girth can move like he does. Donnie Yen designed the fights and they are the best of his career. The last fight between Sammo and Donnie is worth a rental alone.
Hero: I was bothered by the nationalistic message of this film but the first Wuxia Pan epic by Zang Yimou was everything I hoped for. It stomps Crouching tiger for epic Wuxia Pan-ness. The cast from Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi are all outstanding. The best sound effects, special effects and scope ever attempted in a Wuxia Pan film. I was breath -less through most of my first viewing. When it was over I was ready to start it over.
Musa the Warrior: One of the stars of Iron Monkey and Zhang Ziyi is a Korean sword movie. That is all I knew when I rented this movie. This powerful brutal piece of kungfu movie is not exactly a kungfu fantasy, as it is grounded in mostly brutal realism. Outside of the title characters fight scenes which are a little over the top this movie is biggest Korean movie every to be made at the time. Mongol armies, Ming armies and Korean soldiers. All filmed speaking their native languages.
The main characters are Korean enoys who need to return in disgrace after the diplomats they were escorting are killed. They are offered a chance at redemption, Save a Ming Chinese Princess (Zhang Ziyi) from capture by a Mongol army. Brutal battles over the princess plays out over this Two and half hour epic. If you see one movie on this list, this is the one.