In New York Magazine, Kyle Buchanan laments the decline of the modern action movie:
…Actors often brag about how much Krav Maga or karate or capoeira they had to learn for their roles, but to judge from the onscreen world of modern action movies, that kind of skill set is hardly rare: A built-in understanding of martial arts is instilled in everyone, be they hero, villain, or mere henchman. (Fortunately, heroes always get to fight off bad guys who somehow know the exact same form of martial arts they do.) Too often, it seems like movies grind to a halt for obligatory hand-to-hand combat with low stakes and little invention, as though the screenwriter typed, “A fight breaks out,” and the director left it up to the second unit and fight coordinator to fill three minutes.
With little in the way of stakes, a sameness in presentation, and no blood or bruises, martial arts have turned action scenes into dance scenes…Gone are the days when a fight might involve a gun, a makeshift weapon, or a hit that actually hurts.
Mr. Buchanan misremembers the history of violence in cinema.
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
While the new Karate Kid movie earned surprisingly positive reviews from major media outlets, some fans of the original 1984 version are disappointed…
Johnny Lawrence, Cobra-Kai
Last week, action movie star Jackie Chan gave a controversial speech to Chinese business leaders. What remarks caused such an uproar?
According to Associated Press reporter Min Lee, Jackie is “confused” about the value of “freedom” for his fellow Chinese people, and suggests that perhaps they should instead be “controlled”.
Technically, Jackie Chan never said any of this at the Boao Forum; his speech was not given in English. Thus, English-language reporters have the right–and responsibility–to reinterpret his words into an analogous cultural context.
What do you think after reading this speech excerpt?
More offbeat news from the world of martial arts…
“Manga Bible” Casts Jesus Christ as Samurai Warrior
Christian thinkers have tried to make the Bible accessible for centuries, scholars said. Stained glass windows related Bible stories when Europe was largely illiterate. New printing technology in the 19th century made it possible to mass-produce Bibles, including illustrated versions…
The goal of the Bibles is not just to win people to Christ, but to particular ways of thinking, said Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University. Manga Bible author Mr. Akinsiku said the biblical message he wanted to underscore was justice, especially for the poor…
[Continued in The New York Times]
Attention Anchormen: Not Every Swordsman is a Samurai
Recently confronted by a sword-wielding maniac, German police lower their guns, in favor of the trusty battle broom.
Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee
[Amazon] [IMDB] [Netflix]
Starring Dustin Nguyen, Roger Fan, Aiko Tanaka and M.C. Hammer
Loosely based on the true story of Bruce Lee’s “lost footage”, Finishing the Game is a dry, sharply written satire of 70’s era Kung Fu filmmaking. Martial artists and genre fans will enjoy it immensely, but newcomers may not appreciate its subtle humor.
My rating: A-
Finishing the Game
Fist Foot Way
A Review of The Forbidden Kingdom DVD
Recipe for Forbidden Kingdom: Take one part Harry Potter, one part Lord of the Rings, and one part Karate Kid; mix and heat until lukewarm; label as “Asian fusion” cuisine. Serves five hundred million.
Young Jason struggles in a low horse stance, building kungfu as his teacher Lu Yan stands by. “Go deeper,” Lu demands, “You must taste bitter before sweet.”
Your reaction to this single training scene, will most likely mirror your opinion of The Forbidden Kingdom as a whole.
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:
If you know Jackie Chan strictly from his American films—The Tuxedo, Shanghai Knights, and other assorted stinkers—then you don’t know Jackie Chan at all. To appreciate the brilliant physical ability that made him an international action hero, you need to see his earlier work. Here are a few of his best movies, from his prime years in the 80s and early 90s.