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Friday, September 14, 2012

Six Craptacular Martial Arts Movies


Craptacular: (adj.): The state of being enjoyable/entertaining, despite overwhelming technical and/or aesthetic flaws.

For my 200th post (Yay me!), I decided to do another list. As always, these reflect my own opinions, and YMMV. That being said, I’d love to hear others’ choices that I might have missed.

In no particular order…

The Last Dragon
When I first got interested in martial arts, I was immediately drawn to Bruce Lee. Well, who wasn’t, really? In 1985, Barry Gordy’s The Last Dragon came out, and I was hooked! The journey that “Bruce” Leroy Greene takes in this film was my fantasy. I wanted to reach that final level, and to know without knowing. The acting was questionable at best, ranging from deadpan and talentless, through some decent performances, up to the overacted and over-the-top Sho Nuff and his posse. But the fights were done well, and Taimak (and his stunt double) was a real talent to watch. But, my favorite character was Johnny. This guy cracked me up with his knowledge of “the art of fighting without knowing how to fight.” And his skill with the nunchaku was awesome. I still make it a point to watch this one on a regular basis.

Hard to Kill
During the 90’s, Steven Seagal was the man! His use of Aikido, karate, and kendo, all combined to make him a force to be reckoned with on screen. Hard to Kill was and is my favorite of his. The whole revenge shtick is played to the bone, and I really liked how some of the bad guys bought it in the end. The best was when he stabbed the guy from Hill Street Blues in the throat with the broken pool stick, then said “This is for my wife. Fuck you and die!” And then he kicked him in the face. I still get a kick out of that scene.

Revenge of the Ninja
Sho Kosugi made EVERYONE want to be a ninja. And even though I was more of a fan of Bruce Lee, I still loved watching Sho kick major ass. This movie was billed as a “sequel” of sorts to Enter the Ninja, but it really wasn’t. It just happened to be the second ninja movie featuring Sho. It’s always fun to watch a martial arts master use his skills against such unskilled mooks, and this movie does it in spades. The final confrontation is over-the-top and corny, but it still excites me. This is another that I like to watch again on occasion.

Showdown in Little Tokyo
Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee. I could end it right there, and that would be sufficient to explain why I love this movie. It’s cheesy, corny, has some of the most groan-worthy lines, and some of the worst film-editing and technical goofs. And yet, it still manages to be funny, entertaining, exciting, and overall a pretty good action flick. Dolph and Brandon have a real chemistry on screen, with Brandon being a slightly better actor (or maybe he just had a more rounded part). Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is always a great villain, and this role is no exception. He’s evil and ruthless, and even though his death is one of the corniest scenes, I still cheer (inwardly) when it happens. This one fits right in with the whole “karate cop” milieu that ran rampant over Hollywood for several years.

Return of the Dragon (aka Way of the Dragon)
Some may be surprised to see a Bruce Lee movie on this list. But, when viewed strictly as a martial arts/action movie, this one is pretty bad. The dialogue is horrid most of the time (though that may be due to the dubbing process), and the setup and scenes are often not too imaginative. But where it excels is in showcasing just how bad ass Bruce was. Through most of the movie we get treated to scenes of Bruce wailing on talentless (and decidedly nonthreatening) mooks. But near then end, the real stuff shows up. A tae kwon do expert, Bruce Lee favorite, Bob Wall, and finally, Chuck Norris himself, in his first on-screen appearance. Honestly, the fight between Chuck and Bruce at the Coliseum makes the whole movie worth watching. And through it all, the discerning viewer will hear Bruce’s lessons on martial arts and philosophy. This was kind of a trademark of his, and can often be seen in most of his movies.

Lone Wolf McQuade
This is, by far, my favorite Chuck Norris film. Two things make it awesome. 1) Chuck playing a karate-using (or rather, tang soo do-using) Clint Eastwood-type of character, and 2) Chuck kicking David Carradine’s ass. I have no qualms about stating that I HATE David Carradine. He was a dancer who got the role of Caine because he didn’t look too Asian. And he decided to make a career out of pretending to know martial arts. Of this movie, Chuck is on record as saying “David Carradine does martial arts about as well as I act.” You tell em’, Chuck! These days, I’m not as huge a fan of Chuck, mainly because of his off-screen antics and political posturing. But, when he kicks ass, he seriously kicks ass. And Texas Ranger JJ McQuade kicks some major ass.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Lone Wolf McQuade is definitely a favorite of mine. Would love to see it again. I thought it was a great little movie, and that fight scene was so cool.