When The Raid: Redemption was released in theaters this past spring, it raised the bar on modern action. The film set new precedents with intense building of suspense and fight scenes so impressive and raw, it hurt to watch them. Now, with the film headed to Unrated Blu-rayTM and DVD on August 14th, 2012, you can enjoy all of those hard hits at home. But please don’t copy what you see. These are professionals specifically trained to have their heads kicked into tile walls.
Jackie Chan’s best work features stupendous feats of athleticism. Starring as Chinese folk hero, Wong Fei Hung, Chan pulls off his most impressive stunts. All while acting like he’s absolutely shit-faced. Typically, when you see drunken guys fight it’s just a lot of shoving until someone gets a bloody lip or their shirt collar gets ripped. Not the case here. If you’ve ever wanted to see one man defend against many with a bamboo pipe, this is the film for you.
Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to Hong Kong martial arts films also delved into other movie genres near and dear to the kinetic director. Spaghetti Westerns, girls with guns, revenge tales, and Japanese chanbara films all inspired this bloody tale of a woman on the hunt for her tormentors. But it’s the martial arts set piece that stands out from the rest of the film as Uma Thurman’s Bride takes on the “Crazy 88″ Yakuza gang. Armed with only a katana sword, she slices and dices and flips and flies, leaving the dojo floor covered with blood, limbs, the dead and the dying in her pursuit for revenge.
This semi-historical film finally allowed Donnie Yen to show off how good he is at hitting people. Yen stars as Wing Chung, a martial arts master who taught many of the greats — including Bruce Lee. Loosely based on the master‘s life, Chung finds himself called to fight during Japan’s 1937 occupation of China.
A remake of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, Jet Li stars as a student who sets out to avenge his murdered master. Li impressively fights off an entire room of attackers and blends modern boxing styles in with the martial arts techniques. The film proved to be very influential. In fact, after seeing it, the Wachowski Brothers hired fight choreographer Yuen-woo Ping for The Matrix films.
Inspired by the success of The Karate Kid, No Retreat, No Surrender took the concept of the new kid in town and gave it a radical twist. Noting the severe lack of supernatural elements in the Ralph Macchio vehicle, NRNS rectified that by having its main character trained by the ghost of Bruce Lee. You might think that the ghost of a martial arts master doesn’t have what it takes to train a high school kid but you’d in fact be wrong. Turns out that with ghost-training, a young man cannot only rise above his peers in a karate tournament, but can also defeat the murderous muscle (Jean Claude Van Damme) of a crime syndicate when they decide to crash the karate tournament. Because after all, there’s nothing crime syndicates love more than committing very public displays of wrongdoing.
This list couldn’t exist without Bruce Lee in non-ghost form. The first Chinese martial arts film produced by Hollywood with a large-scale budget, it combined the intrigue of James Bond with the impressive fighting of Bruce Lee. Lee stars as a martial artist who agrees to spy on a crime lord after he’s invited to participate in an exclusive fighting tournament on a remote island. As I’m sure you’re aware, remote islands have the best tournaments. Bruce Lee was also heavily involved behind the camera as he revised most of the script, in addition to writing and directing the opening scene, in an effort to make the now classic stand apart from other action films.
Directed by Yuen-woo Ping, this action-comedy (originally titled Lin Shi Rong) was made in an attempt to enjoy the same success that Drunken Master II did. Sammo Hung stars as Lam Sai Wing, a clumsy yet talented fighter. The martial arts featured in this film are old school and an extremely technical merging of two different forms. It did not go on to duplicate the success of Drunken Master II, but it is considered a classic for any serious martial arts fans.