Friends, I am something of a connoisseur of fight scenes and the topics on this blog have been pretty darn heavy for a while now.
So, for a change of pace I thought I’d throw out a list of martial arts movies that I’ve really enjoyed. If you, like me, enjoy that sort of thing then you may find a few gems here that have slipped under your radar.
Who: Iko Uwais
What: Art movie disguised as martial arts movie.
Baby-faced Iko Uwais needs to go to the big city to find his fortune. While there he rescues a girl from human traffickers and things rapidly deteriorate until he is fighting to the death against a small army of thugs and two brutal European slavers.
In the final scene the hero needs to fight both bad guys at once. It’s a great scene made even better by the fact that the Europeans use a more conventional, karate-based fighting style which works well as a contrast to the circular movements and semi-grappling of Uwais’ traditional Silat.
First 20 minutes are pretty slow.
The fight scenes are great. The plot is compelling. The acting is top-class and the cinematography is absolutely beautiful. The director, Gareth Evans, had just graduated from a prestigious English film school so he knows his stuff.
Here, look at this:
This is a frikking promotional poster. They made like 6 of these. And if they brought this level of workmanship to the posters you can imagine what the actual movie looks like.
Title: ‘Tom Yum Goong‘
Who: Tony Jaa
What: Some of the most spectacular and brutal fighting ever seen on screen.
Style: Muy Thai (with a twist)
The moving tale of a young Thai man who needs to go to Sydney, Australia, in order to rescue his elephant.
But before he can do that he needs to beat the living shit out of an awful lot of people.
There is a scene were Jaa fights his way up a 3 storey building. The scene takes about 5 minutes and its awsmness is made even greater by the fact that it was all done in a single take. No editing, no retakes, they did the whole thing properly from start to finish.
Some parts, particularly at the start, are quite slow. Also, the English dubbing is terrible, going so far as to change some of the plot of the movie (like the fact that the villain is a transsexual who is ostracized by her crime family).
Oh wow, so much. This movie has some of the best fight scenes ever, period. There is a scene were Jaa has a style-vs-style battle with a capoeira mestre who looks and fights like Eddie Gordo from ‘Tekken’. There is another scene were Jaa dispatches about 20 guys and uses a different limb-breaking technique for each one.
Title: ‘True Legend’
Who: Man Cheuk Chiu
What: A reworking of some well-worn Kung Fu tropes that contains the best one-on-one fight scene I have ever seen.
Style: Traditional Kung Fu, including some mythical styles, but blown completely out of proportion.
A loyal general is betrayed and sent into hiding by his evil rival. While in hiding he goes mad but perfects his fighting style to try and get revenge on the bad guy and protect his family.
About halfway through the movie there is an epic duel between the two central characters. It is quite simply the best 2-person fight scene I have ever seen, bar none.
Yes, it’s better than that other scene you just thought of.
Yes, that one too.
This movie is actually 3 movies in 1, and the last one kinda sucks.
The first half is so good that it wouldn’t matter how bad the last half was, this would still be one of the best Kung Fu movies ever.
Title: ‘Black Mask‘
Who: Jet LI
What: A superhero story for Kung Fu fans
Style: Over-the-top Kung Fu
A secret government program creates a team of superhuman Kung Fu soldiers who go AWOL. When the team turns evil only the best of them (Jet Li) can stop the chaos!
Multiple high quality fight scenes including a final fight that stands out amongst martial arts movies as a solid classic. And the fight choreography was done by Yuen Woo Ping. ‘Nuff said.
The bad: The first 2 minutes are laughably silly. The next 10 minutes are slow as cheese.
The good: Visually stunning and disconcertingly brutal fight scenes throughout. See, one of the powers the soldiers have is that they feel no pain, so the only way to stop them is to keep breaking them until they don’t work any more.
It’s nasty, but it’s also fun to watch.
Title: ‘Hard Boiled‘
Who: Chow Yun Fat and John Woo
What: Cinematic gunplay raised to the level of art. The movie that made Woo and Yun-Fat’s careers.
Style: Gun Jitsu
Detective ‘Tequila’ (not his real name) runs across an undercover cop who is getting too close to his targets. They’re both riding the ragged edge, heading for a fall, taking flack from the commissioner, burning their candles at both ends and just trying to be good cops in a bad town.
One of them may or may not have a ‘bum ticker’, but this is never fully explained.
Cliches aside this movie has to be seen to be believed.
The final action sequence is, I shit you not, almost 20 minutes long. And the action is stellar throughout.
Completely implausible to the point of making one lol.
Didn’t you read above? The final action scene is almost twenty frikking minutes long. It’s not just heroes vs. bad guys. It’s the heroes, backed up by an entire SWAT team taking on an army of bad guys and a hitman who seems to be have been carved from granite and then given rocket boosters and shotguns.
Also, it appears that in this universe all inanimate objects are made from 20% gunpowder, so they explode when you shoot them.
The climactic action scene takes place in a hospital so the bad guys are trying to use the doctors and patients as human shields, the heroes are trying to save them, the mob boss is rapidly going insane and the level of restraint shown by the director starts low, and then falls off a cliff.
They turn it up to 11, and leave it there.
This movie is absolutely off-the-hook and I loved it.
Obviously, there are many, many great movies I could have included in this. Heck, if there seems to be enough interest maybe I will do another one of these.
But these 5 movies I’m sure of.
Go see them, now.
[Standard Disclaimer: this post was entirely my own opinion and was not paid for in any way, directly or otherwise, by anyone or anything that stands to gain in any way from the ideas expressed herein.]