Wednesday, October 13, 2010


As you may or may not know about me, I write historical romance and paranormal romance. And yes, I adore the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth all the way! I own at least one DVD version of every Jane Austen novel to movie.

But my favorite kind of movie? Ever in the whole world?

Martial Arts. Oh my gosh, I LOVE LOVE LOVE martial arts movies. When my son was little we embarked on a mission to see every movie Jackie Chan and Jet Li ever made. Because, seriously, I would totally marry Jet Li and have his babies. (I mean that in a completely virtual sense, by the way.) I did preview a few of the movies before I watched them with my son, but really, a movie challenge like allowed me to observe that over time movie ratings mean just about nothing. Movies today are far more violent. (Thank you Reservoir Dogs, which I think started the bloody violence we see in movies. I happen to have very much liked Reservoir Dogs, by the way.) Movies in the past, believe it or not, were far more casual about naked women and much less violent, excluding Wes Craven and his ilk. (I love a good zombie movie, too!)

I was quite surprised when a pretty ridiculous Jackie Chan movie from the early 80's contained a LOT of female nudity. This was a Western produced movie by way. (No wonder Chan started doing his own movies.) Completely gratuitous. I think every time Chan wasn't fighting they were afraid the movie would be boring, so they'd say hey! Time for a naked woman! And some shirtless woman would show up for reasons I still can't figure out. There was no sex. Just naked women. There. For, well, whatever. Look! Boobs!

While I don't think my son and I managed to see ALL the movies by these two actors, we came darn close. I recommend Chan's Shaolin Wooden Men. It's not easy to find, but Chan is very very young in this movie and despite the lack of plot, there's a lot of martial arts training that will make your muscles hurt just from watching. Impressive.

When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out, American audiences for the most part thought they were seeing a first for magical Kung Fu moves. The movie deserved the acclaim, of course, but in that sense it wasn't ground breaking. There are many many movies that involve the magical properties believed to be gained by Kung Fu masters. Just about all the movies set in the Chinese historical past call on the supernatural gifts of these fighters. I love all those movies, too. I'm a sucker for men in Chinese robes.

One of the best of these is Chan's Legend of the Drunken Master. It's hilariously funny for one thing. Chan at his best. Many martial arts movies, and I am speaking in the main about movies made in Hong Kong and NOT for the American market, feature amazingly strong women who are also Kung Fu masters. I was impressed and thrilled to watch the women kick butt and glad that my son was seeing these role models.  Heck yeah! Drunken Master is an excellent example of this, by the way. The grandmother will have you in stitches -- and she's no slouch at fighting. I have to think hard to find a genre of American movies of the same period (1980s through the 1990s) that feature such consistently strong and independent women who were in no way inferior to the men EVEN WITH their lives lived in the female sphere. Check it out.

I've hardly touched on my love for Jet Li. <3 <3 <3. Tip: If you're going to watch a martial arts movie that wasn't specifically made for Hollywood, make sure you get the Hong Kong version and NOT the version released to the West because, I am sorry to tell you, that the Western versions have almost always been horribly edited. The best example of this is Jet Li's Contract Killer. The Western version has so many scenes cut that it actually doesn't make sense and some of the best fight scenes are shorter and don't even include the best work. Worse, the Western version (which is badly dubbed) includes dialog for an Indian character that is, frankly, offensive and racist. This does not appear in the Hong Kong version.

Another great example is Li's The Defender (US version) and Bodyguard from Beijing (Hong Kong version). These are the same movie, but the Hong Kong version makes more sense and includes longer and better fight scenes. It's also highly romantic. ::sigh::

Li's Romeo Must Die is a movie made for Hollywood with fighting that is beyond awesome because of Li's athleticism and the profoundly well done underdog element. Plus it has Russel Wong in it and you can't go wrong there. You could make an interesting comparison to Beowulf since the movie includes a flashback scene of Li and his fictional brother swimming/floating from China to Hong Kong. Beowulf, if you've read the entire poem, left his home via the ocean . . . It's not a perfect parallel, but many of the elements that make Beowulf exciting appear in lots of martial arts movies.

I could literally keep going on this subject but I won't. Instead, I will leave you to discuss the awesomeness of Jet Li in the comments. If you haven't seen a martial arts movie before, why not? If you have, which one(s) and what did you think? I will send a copy of Bodyguard From Beijing to one lucky, random commenter.


  1. Carolyn, my 73-year-old mom is a huge martial arts movie fan. She will watch anything with Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, and so on. I remember when we were eating at a California Pizza Kitchen in Dallas once, and Chuck was there with his then-girlfriend. I waited until he was done eating and then approached them as he took out a huge honkin' wad of cash to pay their bill. "Could you sign this placemat for my mom?" I asked, while he waved at her, and she practically melted off her chair. It was hilarious.

  2. My closest thing to seeing a martial arts film in recent years was the remake of the Karate Kid but my 10yo daughter has a junior black belt in karate - does that count?

  3. I enjoyed reading this post because your enthusiasm is so contagious. In my hometown there used to be a theater that devoted itself to martial arts movies and it was around for many years.

    I have not seen a single martial arts movie. (Although I know all the words to "Everbody was Kung Fu Fighting" and I used to watch that Kun Fu show. Can't rememeber what it was called but the master called the student grasshopper. (I'm showing my age.)

    Do you like the Kill Bill films? Those have always seemed interesting to me.

  4. Susan, I LOVE your Chuck Norris story! Yay your mom!!

    Lauren: Martial arts is a great discipline to study, it will serve your daughter well for the rest of her life, and I don't mean just the sparring, but the physical benefits.

    Karin: You are thinking of the series with David Carradine, which was called, simply, Kung Fu. I LOVED that series. I have not seen Kill Bill but I intend to one of these days.

  5. Carolyn, this is so funny because I'm like Karin, wouldn't even consider watching a martial arts movie. But now you've got me curious...

  6. Oh, I used to go to so many martial arts movies! The best ones were completely amazing. But it's been at least 8 years since I've seen one. And I'm trying to figure out why, being a Jet Li fan, I haven't seen Bodyguard from Beijing. O.o

  7. My partner and I went on a kick for a while of watching every old Jackie Chan movie. We collect the subtitled martial arts movies too. Just love them!


  8. You forgot to mention that Jet Li is also cute, I would like to see the "Beowulf" movie...

    Susan in AZ

  9. I came by to see what your favorite Jet Li movie was, not to win anything...

    How did I not know you were a martial arts enthusiast? We'll have to kibitz over donuts and wine the next time I crash your party!

    My favorite of Jet Li's would have to be Fist of Legend. Who can resist Jet Li in an homage to a Bruce Lee classic -- Fist of Fury? For Jackie Chan, I love both the Drunken Masters. :)

  10. Looking through Netflix it appears that the original version of Contract Killer is available as Hitman there. And is now in my queue.

    Have you seen Tarantino's Grindhouse: Death Proof? This is my favorite movie.

  11. Jeannie:
    Fist of Legend is a FANTASTIC movie. I loved it. Beautifully done and I loved the way Jet didn't just copy Bruce Lee but put a whole different passion behind the characters. A very very good movie. Better than the original, I think.

    I agree, both Drunken Master movies are great movies. We must sit down and talk Kung Fu!

    I saw one of the Grindhouse movies, but it was a bit much for me. I don't think it was Death Proof.

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