Last year was a good year for martial arts movies. With more than two dozen releases to theater and DVD, few people will have the time and interest to screen them all–myself included! Rather than writing a review for each, I have decided to simply list those you cannot afford to miss.
Bodyguards and Assassins
Winner: 2010 Hong Kong Film Award, Best Film
Bodyguards and Assassins [IMDB rating: 6.9/10]
Starring Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Cung Le
Grandmaster Ip Man—the man who ushered Wing Chun kung fu out of obscurity, and presided over the instruction of a young Bruce Lee—is the subject of a exciting new Hong Kong biopic. Action star Donnie Yen portrays the petite but powerful Ip in early adulthood, as wealthy playboy and martial arts fanatic.
On the unusual Chinese style of kung fu known as Zui Quan, or drunken boxing, Bruce Kumar Frantzis writes:
Eight Drunken Immortals [style] stresses several unusual martial qualities. It embodies more joint- and body-folding techniques than any other external or internal/external martial art. It imparts the ability to fold the body like a rag doll, thus enabling the practitioner to both block and attack from quite unpredictable angles with every part of the body, including the buttocks and back. The extreme body folding skill of the Drunken boxers makes it virtually impossible to apply joint locks on them.
Eight Drunken Immortals is neither a “this or that” style, and equally uses punches, hand and finger strikes, and a large assortment of usual and unusual kicks from odd angles, joint-locks, all kinds of throws, both upright and crouching, and extensive use of the legs while on the ground.
The precise control of their own and their opponent’s space enables Drunken boxers to create optical illusions and use deception to great advantage. Another weight displacement focus is the ability to make any point on the body, say an elbow tip, head, tantien, or knee become the center of balance and movement, and then to rapidly change at will from any of multiple balance points to another. Such maneuvering allows Drunken boxers to appear totally unbalanced when in fact their balance is perfect. Thus, multiple traps are set for an unsuspecting opponent.
Most of the performances you will see at tournaments, in video games and movies are only theatrical imitations of genuine Zui Quan—but that is no reason not to enjoy them! Here are a few of my favorite drunken boxing movie scenes:
Dog Bite Dog [Amazon.com] [Netflix] [IMDB]
After a Cambodian child slave turned assassin completes his assignment, he in turn becomes the target of a vengeful Hong Kong cop. There are no heroic figures in Dog Bite Dog, and no glorification of violence. This stunningly brutal film illustrates an unfortunate truth: the fight isn’t over until everyone is satisfied, and nobody is content with a loss.
I was recently reading wujimon’s Taijiquan blog, and was a little surprised to find Top 5 Martial Arts Movies in his list of most popular posts.
Surely, I thought, such lowbrow pursuits are beneath the true “internal martial artist”? But it seems I was wrong; a fortuitous circumstance, because I know more about kung fu movies than John Hodgman knows about hoboes.