The Junkie’s Top 10 Martial Arts Action Sequences – In Honour of The Raid: Redemption (Kirk Haviland)

With the fantastic “The Raid: Redemption” being released in theaters I thought I would compile a list of my Favorite Action Sequences in honor of the film and in particular its stellar staircase sequence near the beginning of the film. I will say this is a personal list and is likely to start debate over its inclusions and exclusions, this is good. Hopefully there are a few new discoveries on this list for you.


Final Fight in Five Deadly Venoms

A very personal pick as the Venoms was the first Shaw brothers film I ever saw and for me it’s still the best. This was the film that got me hooked on the Martial Arts genre and the clip features 5 of the 6 actors who would go on to be known as “The Venoms Crew”


Way of the Dragon – Bruce vs Chuck

Bruce Lee is the godfather of Modern Kung Fu film and Enter the Dragon is his masterpiece. Yet my favorite fight of his comes from Way of the Dragon mainly due to the caliber of his opponent, Chuck Norris. Chuck may be a punchline nowadays, but when this was filmed he was a Karate world champion. The fight scene was choreographed between the two of them, and you can tell they both wanted it to be perfect.


The Opening Sequence of JCVD

The fact that a nearly 50 year old Jean Claude Van Damme pulls off this scene is brilliant. A continuous sequence of Jean Claude fighting his way through a war torn setting, taking out multitudes along the way, only to finish and be told he needs to go again by a spoiled film director who “forgot” to watch.  The fact that JCVD is actually a really good movie helps as well.


Jet Li vs an entire Japanese Dojo in Fist of Legend

Jet Li playing the classic character of Chen Zhen, walks into a Japanese Dojo and proceeds to kick everyone’s ass in sight. Jet Li at his absolute best.


Final Fight – Chocolate

The man behind Tony Jaa’s first 2 films brings us the female counterpart in JeeJa Yanin. In the film she plays an autistic girl who learns muay thai from movies and watching fighters in a local gym, then when her mother becomes ill (a former mob enforcer), she decides to go collect on her mother’s old debts to afford the medical attention she requires. Great film, seek it out.


Dragons Forever – Final fight in warehouse

The first fight scene from the “Three Brothers” (Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung) on this list is one of the last times they were all on the screen together. It features the three fighting all over a  nondescript warehouse with the highlights being the rematch between Benny “the jet” Urquidez and Jackie Chan (their first battle may also end up on here) and the cigar chomping, scene stealing of Yuen Wah.


Ong Bak – The Kick

Tony Jaa’s debut came with so much hype attached that he would be the new savior of Martial Arts film making that it comes as quite a surprise that he does no fighting for almost the entire first half of the film. Director Prachya Pinkaew builds this tension til Jaa’s Ting is thrust into the ring, and answers any questions in mere seconds.


Wheels on Meals – Final Fight Sequence

The Second “Three Brothers” sequence on the list features Sammo at his comedic best and Yuen Biao’s lightning quick hands and feet being displayed as well as his fencing ability!?! But the real gem here is Jackie Chan vs Benny “the jet” Urquidez in what is still arguably the best one on one fight sequences of all time. And yes those candles are real and that was not faked.


Jackie Chan vs the Axe Gang – Drunken Master 2

Known in North America as Legend of the Drunken Master, DM2 may be the best overall film of Jackie’s entire catalog, and also features a killer end fight between Jackie and his real life bodyguard. But this manic ballet of violence in which Jackie takes on and defeats over 100 men who just keep coming is the essence of what makes Jackie great. The use of environment and acrobatics as well as comedy has become his trademark, and nowhere else is it done better.

And the controversial #1….

Alley Fight from SPL aka Killzone

…is only controversial if you’ve never seen it. This is one great film, if you haven’t seen it you need to. Donnie Yen and newcomer Wu Jing , also known as Jackie Wu,  choreographed this sequence between themselves, and rumor has it they spent little time setting moves and worried more about the blocking and hitting the camera marks so they could go all out with each other. A brutal, intense scene that works so well due to rawness of the fight, this fight definitely takes my #1 spot.

Honorable Mentions: The aforementioned final fight from Drunken Master 2, The Staircase sequence from Tom Yum Goong (The Protector) – very hard to leave that one off, the underground fight from Enter The Dragon, the Axe Gang fight from Kung Fu Hustle and many more I sure I’ve missed and am betting I will be told about. So let the debate begin, how good/bad do you think I did?

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The Sword Identity Review TIFF 2011 (Wo kou de zong ji)

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The Sword Identity is the debut film from director Xu Haofeng. At first glance this film looked like a typical historical martial arts film, with plenty of action, but on closer inspection The Sword Identity seemed like it could be a very unique film. The multi-talented Xu has drawn on his knowledge of martial arts, Taoism and Chinese culture to create something more than a martial arts film. Xu gives the audience a look at the internal aspect of martial arts and the people who dedicate their lives to a technique, while shying away from the external aspect of martial arts, the actual fighting, which audiences should already be very familiar with.

The film tells the story of two wanderers in Southern China, seeking to prove their technique in the city of Guancheng. Within the city walls, four families, each with a martial arts school, mistake the wanderers for Japanese pirates, due to the unusually long swords the wanderers are carrying. The wanderers are not given a chance to prove the worth of their technique, but are driven away. During the conflict, one of the wanderers is taken captive, while the other takes shelter in a house boat, and defends it from the city’s soldiers using his superior technique.

Visually, The Sword Identity is a beautiful film. Vistas of mountains seen through rows of trees, expanses of wetlands and even the river running through the city of Guancheng are a pleasure to behold. The cinematography has a very unique feel to it and aside from the action scenes, I would say that it is a big part of the film’s charm. Also, a lot of time must have been spent designing the lovely period costumes that adorn the characters. Unfortunately, the action sequences in the film are a bit of a snooze-fest. I understand that action may have not been the primary goal of the film, far from it, but when the 10th or so character gets bopped on the head with a stick and falls down unconscious, it is hard not to groan. One of the more interesting aspects of the action are the sequences in which characters imagine how they will go about winning a fight before they make a move. I could certainly see this technique being lifted from The Sword Identity by future martial arts films.

The story of the film has a few strong points, but ultimately wasn’t as interesting as I hoped it would be. As I have said already, the focus is on the internal aspect of martial arts, rather than the physical techniques that win fights. Anyone that sits down to watch this hoping for action will be sorely disappointed. The traditional fighting certainly has some interesting qualities, but at times looks like a fight broke out at some sort of ninja retirement home. The story is definitely more philosophical and cerebral, but even as I experienced this side of The Sword Identity it still felt like something was lacking. The characters are often unpredictable, because not enough time has been taken to introduce them to the audience. Aside from the main character and the coast guard Captain, who was quite funny, I didn’t really feel like investing any time in these characters.

The visuals are great at times and attention to detail really makes this feel like a period piece, however there are too many issues with The Sword Identity to make it an enjoyable viewing experience from start to finish. I don’t think I would recommend The Sword Identity, however, since it is a debut film and there were some positives, I will be looking out for the next project by Xu Haofeng.

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