Are you ready for some mayhem?Jun 3, 2001 (Updated Jun 18, 2001) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Blood, sweat, tears, broken bones, flying fists and feet, wire-fu, gunplay, and lethal intestines. Experience the Art of Fighting for yourself.
Jackson (Donald Gibb): “Time to separate the men from the boys.”
Victor (Jackson Liu): “Just be sure Chong Li doesn't separate your head from your body.”
As a self-professed action movie enthusiast, it is no secret that I expect all good action films to contain a memorable fight scene which defines the essence of the movie. Fight scenes in films encompass many different styles, ranging from a mano a mano match between two fighters—one looking for glory, the other seeking revenge—to a relentless gun battle where our heroes are outnumbered nearly a hundred to one.
What makes a fight scene memorable? Innovation. A fight scene should have an element of surprise that keeps the viewer at the edge of his/her seat. Excitement. An awesome fight scene is a lot like a sporting event: it should be invigorating, mesmerizing, and exhilarating. It should pull the spectator into the heart of the action. Aesthetic value. In a way, there should be aesthetic value to a fight scene. Throughout the course of recent filmmaking, individual auteurs like John Woo have learned how to transform a Mexican stand-off into an art form in its own right while choreographers such as Yuen-Woo Ping and Tony Leung Siu Hung have reinvented the Art of Fighting with inventive, almost surrealistic martial arts choreography.
As a salute to the Art of Fighting, I have decided to create a list which contains some of the most memorable fight scenes ever captured on film. By no means is this the definitive list, but these fighting sequences are sure to give you an adrenaline rush and make you yell, “Hot damn!” In the spirit of diversity in our society, I have tried to make this list as eclectic as possible. Included in this list are several HK action films, a science-fiction film, a zombie epic, a low-budget martial arts film, a British comedy, and a biography. Observe grasshopper, for I shall teach you the true Art of Fighting…
“Robo Warrior” vs. “Vampire Beast” in Joe Livingstone’s cut-and-paste disaster Robo Vampire.
You are probably wondering what the hell is this during here. Well folks, Robo Warrior is a blatant and cheap-looking imitation of “Robocop” while the Vampire Beast is a stuntman wearing a gorilla’s mask (you can obviously see the eyeholes). While I cannot recommend Robo Vampire for the discerning viewer (this film is actually TWO completely different movies with unrelated plot-lines edited for the price of one!), I must spotlight a memorable brawl between these two characters. Check it out…it is pure insanity, almost like watching WWF with a psychedelic punch.
Okay...now on to the real list. (This list is in no particular order.)
Jeff Wincott vs. Steven Vincent Leigh in Richard W. Munchkin’s Deadly Bet.
Kick-boxing mania ran rampant throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Films with such titles as Bloodfist, Bloodfight, Bloodmatch, Desert Kickboxer, Angel the Kickboxer, and American Kickboxer 1 all saturated the shelves of video stores everywhere. Deadly Bet is definitely one of the best kick-boxing movies you have never heard of. Depending on the scenario, editing can either enhance the efficacy of a fight scene or diminish it. This final battle where the hero Angelo (Wincott) battles the villain Rico (Leigh), is an outstanding example of how editing can be used to enhance the potency of the fighting. The martial arts choreography—which includes some impressive stunts such as a back-flip, and several combination spin-kicks—is fantastic as well.
Considering the budget limitations, Deadly Bet has a lot of stylistic flair, as evident with this match-up where what is at stake is the hero’s girlfriend…and his own self-respect. Crisp editing, fine cinematography, and a variety of high flying moves combine to make this climactic brawl between an alcoholic martial artist and a suave playboy (no joke) one of the most exciting and grueling kick-boxing matches ever made.
Shark vs. Underwater Zombie in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie
This is a classic match-up between a mean-@$$ shark and an even meaner-@$$ zombie who has a predilection for living flesh—perhaps the most ingenious fight scene on this list. Enough said.
Jackie Chan vs. Gary Daniels in Wong Jing’s City Hunter.
This goofy yet awesome match-up between Jackie Chan and British martial artist Gary Daniels earns points simply for its sheer brashness. This fight scene is a lovely tribute to the popular “Street Fighter II” video game, where the two fighters dress up as various Street Fighter II characters while battling each other. Daniels finds himself wearing Ken’s outfit while Jackie Chan pretends to be…Chun Li!
In a way, this fight scene very much resembles that of a video game. The moves are completely unrealistic and exaggerated, the sound effects (as well as the music and special effects) are straight out of the Street Fighter II video game, and the scenario itself is way too surreal for the real world. While this contest between him and Daniels may not rank up there as one of Chan’s best fight sequences, it is definitely one of the most creative. It may be corny as hell, but it is sure a lot of fun to watch.
Chow Yun-Fat vs. A Mysterious Hitman in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow II.
Okay, so this is technically not a hand-to-hand combat scene, but this gun battle definitely deserves acclamation. This showdown between Ken Gor (Fat), and a sharp-shooting hitman in A Better Tomorrow II is one of the most memorable gunfights I have ever seen. As bullets whiz by, and both characters receive several gunshot wounds, the tension increases. The outcome itself is unpredictable. Who will win the standoff?
What makes this gunfight truly mind-blowing though is the suspense. You can vicariously feel the heat as you eagerly anticipate who will win this showdown. The unexpected gun trade—which shows a sign of respect for your opponent—before the final shots are fired, is a cinematic standout. Make no mistake; this gun battle is one hell of a fireworks show.
Ricky Ho vs. Oscar in Ngai Kai Lam’s Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky.
This is by far one of the most—if not the most outrageous fight sequence ever choreographed. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is one of the most violent action movies ever made, with violence so graphic it will make Tom Savini cringe in discomfort. This match-up between Ricky Ho (a Spartacus-type good guy representing the oppressed) and Oscar (one of the oppressors) is gory, yet loaded with sprinkles of humor. To prove my point, the weapon of choice in this fight is: human intestines. You read that correctly; Oscar goes to great lengths to win by committing seppuku . Afterwards, we see a bloody close-up of Oscar pulling out his own intestines so he can use them to strangle Ricky…
I would be remiss if I omit this fight sequence because I cannot help but draw attention to an event you will never forget. While the martial arts moves are not wholly impressive here, the unconventional choreography is sure to make your eyes pop out! (Watch this movie, and you will discover the significance of this phrase!) This fight scene is so extreme that you cannot help but laugh at the unrealism here. Words cannot justify the full audacity of this match-up; you must see this event for yourself.
King Arthur vs. The Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Sure, this fight scene is fairly tame. It consists of King Arthur (the late Graham Chapman) and the Black Knight (John Cleese) sword-fighting in an unspectacular match. Yes, the characters are “going through the motions,” and yes, the choreography is not very crisp. However, the humor—that is, the humorous “shock content”—is why this match-up is etched in my mind.
This amusing fight scene between King Arthur and The Black Knight who does not know when to quit always makes me laugh raucously. In fact, we laugh at the shock value of the content and how it takes us by surprise. I would have never imagined the Black Knight refusing to give up even after he loses his most vital limbs. Face it, if this was real life, and we witness a guy severing his opponent’s leg with a sword, we would not be laughing.
When I watch this sequence, I think about how the Python troupe is making fun of those who just do not know when to give up and admit defeat. They mock those “valiant” souls who let their idealistic philosophy of “attaining victory at whatever costs” cloud their common sense. In any case, this fight scene is absolutely hysterical, one of the many shining moments in what is arguably one of the best comedies ever made, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Of course, who can forget the unforgettable line: “I’ll bite your legs off!”
Bruce Lee vs. The Demon in Rob Cohen’s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
While the actions scenes in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story are actually only secondary to the film’s plot and emotional content, these sequences are nevertheless proficient and exciting to watch. However, this particular fight scene—which is apparently a “dream”—is not the regular good guy vs. wimpy bad guys conflict. What makes this moment so poignant though is that one can see this confrontation as a catharsis for Bruce Lee (here, played by Jason Scott Lee). Here, he is forced to confront “The Demon,” a manifestation of all the demons which have haunted him and his family for generations. There is no turning back, he must exorcise those demons…or else, his future descendants will suffer the same fate. The moves are not particularly extraordinary, but this fight scene is important nonetheless. It reveals a weaker, more vulnerable side of the legendary Dragon, which incidentally enough, humanizes a legend.
Keanu Reeves vs. Hugo Weaving in the Wachowski brothers’ The Matrix.
It is safe to say that this is probably a more traditional choice. The Matrix is often credited as the film which profoundly influenced action films in Hollywood. Now, everybody is “doing The Matrix.” Anyway, watching Neo (Reeves) and Agent Smith (Weaving) exchange flying bullets and feet in a virtual reality type world is gloriously breathtaking. Although this fight scene (as well as all the others in this movie) owes a lot of credit to the ones witnessed by genre fans in such Hong Kong classics as Fist of Legend, and The Tai-Chi Master, the climactic bout between Neo and Agent Smith defines the complete essence of the true Art of Fighting. It is highly innovative, fusing unique special effects wizardry with stylish fight choreography to spellbind audiences. It is also exciting and indeed, aesthetic.
The legendary fight choreographer, Yuen-Woo Ping, does a tremendous job executing the complicated and stunning action sequence. He meticulously combines wire-fu with futuristic gunplay to create a virtually flawless fight scene. One cannot help but be blown away by what is arguably one of the most awestruck fight scenes ever made. Imagine two ballistic warriors perform a series of trancelike maneuvers and you will find yourself completely captivated by the artistry of the choreography.
Michelle Yeoh vs. Zhang Ziyi in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
This is one of my favorite match-ups. While most of the fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are breathtaking and poignant, two particular ones come to mind when I think about some of the best action choreography in cinematic history. The first such fight scene is where Shu Lien (Yeoh) confronts a mysterious lady in black. As the two exchange numerous blows, one cannot help but be impressed with how this fight scene is carefully arranged like a musical number. The action itself moves so lightning fast that it will not allow you to catch your breath. The music in the background only serves to intensify the action and reinvigorate the senses. The second confrontation between these two women fighters is equally majestic…only this time weapons come into play.
Rhythm is what makes these fight scenes between two strong women some of the best action sequences ever conceived. Similar to The Matrix, fight choreographer Yuen-Woo Ping does an outstanding job putting a lot of time and thought into these sequences. No longer are we witnessing two fighters engage in a standard hands-and-feet combat; we are witnessing poetry come alive. Another way for me to describe these fight scenes is to think of two competing dancers trying to upstage each other.
Jean Claude Van Damme vs. Bolo Yeung in Newt Arnold’s Bloodsport
Of all the fight scenes highlighted in this list, I must say that the climactic bout between da Muscles from Brussels and the Chinese Hercules is by far the most visceral. Most of the combat scenes in Bloodsport are excellent because they have a sense of brutal realism to them. When a character is struck by a lethal punch of kick, you can feel the same effect. Unlike many of the fight scenes listed above, those in Bloodsport are more grounded in reality. The fight scenes in Bloodsport eschew the use of wire-fu in favor of more realistic violence. This awestruck battle between Frank Dux (Van Damme) and Chong Li (Yeung) utilizes plenty of slow-motion shots, which surprisingly enough are effective, in that they help showcase many of Van Damme’s amazing flying kicks. Also, the fine camerawork allows the viewer to get involved with the action.
I chose to highlight Bloodsport because it launched a new wave of martial arts movies which are more interested in capturing the brutality of the violence rather than the artistry of a martial artist’s maneuvers. Many people will no doubt object to the strong violence in such films as Bloodsport, but I must give credit to these movies for reminding us the cruel side of the Art of Fighting.
Well, grasshopper, I hope you have learned well. Take the knowledge I have instilled in you and use it wisely.
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