There is something spectacular about martial arts films. It was during the 1970s and 1980s, the Asian dominated genre exploded with English dubbed kung fu films being made available to Western audiences, mainly produced by the Shaw Brothers.
Since then, we have had the pleasure of many actors leaving Hong Kong cinema to try their hand at Hollywood.
However, it was the 1999 film The Matrix that paved the way for non-martial artists to be the lead character and perform martial arts. Here is a handful of 21st century martial arts films that have graced the screen.
Kill Bill: Vol I 2003
This modern classic was conceived as a conversation between Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino during the making of Pulp Fiction.
The protagonist is the Bride, and the first thing that we witness is an almighty shoot-up at the Bride’s wedding rehearsal, leaving what we assume all in attendance dead.
What happens next is a classic revenge tale.
Because the Bride did not die, and she’s out to get everyone that took part in the slaughter.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000
Based on a Chinese novel of the same title, by Wang Dulu, this wuxia film follows the Green Destiny sword, and its caretakers. They are in love, but, being bound out of duty they do not reveal it to each other. Adding to this already complex story, is that someone is seeking to steal the Green Destiny.
The stand out fight scene was between Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi). The choreography for all of the fight scenes are amazing though. Chow Yun Fat is brilliant as Li Mu Bai, the renowned swordsman.
The Raid 2011
Indonesia throws their hat into the ring, by way of Welsh Filmmaker Gareth Evans, who wrote, directed and edited this action film.
It stars Iko Uwais as Rama, who is part of an elite police squad, tasked to infiltrate a high-rise building and apprehend the crime lord that runs the building as well as the slums of Jakarta. He comes up against much opposition and surprises along his ascent to the Penthouse.
There are only a few of the opening scenes that do not fill the screen with violence.
The Raid II 2014
Gareth Evans’ follow up film. Our protagonist, Rama, is now undercover in prison. He plans to topple the crime syndicate in Jakarta and highlight the corruption within his police force. If you watch long enough, then you will be rewarded with a nicely choreographed ultimate fight scene. Unfortunately this sequel didn’t hold up as well as its original.
Kill Bill: Vol II 2004
The Bride continues her solo war against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, lead by her ex lover Bill.
This is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to Grindhouse cinema, which includes the genres of spaghetti westerns, martial arts films, samurai films and blaxploitation.
Do you agree that martial arts films are becoming popular again? What other popular martial arts filled films have you watched lately? I’d love to know, please share!