God I Love Kung-Fu Movies!
I’ve expressed my love of of old school Kung-Fu films before on this little blog o’mine. Kung-Fu movies are one of those things that always manage to weather the test of time with me. Of all the film genres they have always held their appeal and aren’t tarnished by over sentimental memories like other movie genres or certain TV shows do. So many great movies that still hold their greatness with me like Fists Of The White Lotus, Dirty Ho, Crippled Avengers, Legendary Weapons of Cina and so many other films that I couldn’t even begin to name them all. Hell I couldn’t name them all even if I wanted to since I know there are many I actually missed. Look, I couldn’t always get home in time on Saturday afternoons to catch the Drive-In Movie.
My romance with Kung-Fu movies led to me discovering other things, like the films of Jackie Chan. It hipped to the awesomeness of Sonny Chiba and of course led to me watching the fuck of out of Infra-Man. When you break it down, I probably watched more Hong Kong cinema between the ages of 7-12 than I did anything that was mainstream from Hollywood. Unless it was Star Wars, I watched the fuck out of Star Wars. I think I can say with all honesty that Kung-Fu and martial arts movies are my favorite genre of cinema. Even a crappy Kung-Fu movie will bring a smile to my face simply because no matter how little plot there may be, eventually 2 guys are going to bust out and fight. What more could anyone want?
Hey, I like the new school Kung-Fu just fine, I mean even with the over-complicated stunt work and even CGI that gets put in these movies nowadays, in the end you are still going to have 2 guys that want to kick each other’s ass. I mean it isn’t rocket science to figure out a basic plot to a Kung-Fu film. You could probably make a flow-chart to break it down but why bother? I mean in the end you will get 2 guys wanting to kick each other’s asses. There is a noted exception to this, if it is a Jackie Chan movie then it becomes 1 guy (Jackie Chan) wanting to kick anywhere from 1-15 people’s ass. That’s just how Jackie rolls, actually Bruce Lee rolled that way as well though his body count in Enter The Dragon was a git higher. Check out the craziness that is Police Story if you want to know what I’m talking about.
Still, it is those movies from the 70s that stick with me the most. I think I’d rather watch The Chinatown Kid more than any other movie ever made. Even more than Star Wars or Raiders of The Lost Ark. That is saying something because Raiders of The Lost Ark is probably my most favorite movie… EVER! But there is a poetry in the violence of The Chinatown Kid. Maybe that is the beauty of martial arts in general, that they are violent yet have such amazing grace to their movements, even when the movements are over-dramatized in a choreographed fight. Maybe that is why I have such disdain for movies like The Matrix, the fight is almost too choreographed for me to sit there and say “This kicks ass”, because it doesn’t. There is no fire in the fight and that is so fucking important. Most 70s and early 80s Kung-Fu films are better than The Matrix films because everyone seems to dig deep and add soul and fire to a fight. Everything and everyone seems so detached and bored in The Matrix films that fights seem like over-choreographed slap-fights. There is no intensity and any filmed martial arts fight sequence MUST have intensity or else in loses all credibility.
Let me put in simple terms. Do you want to watch a fight scene between 2 guys that look like they’d rather e reading the collected works of Proust than fighting?
Of course you don’t, nobody does and that is why The Kid With The Golden Arm, The Chinatown Kid and even The Five Deadly Venoms are just 3 simple Kung-Fu movies that are better than The Matrix trilogy. You don’t need over elaborate CGI and millions upon millions of dollars to build a fake freeway. Ideally, you just need 2 guys, give them an issue to fight, spend the movie building to the fight and then guess what… THEY FIGHT! This isn’t fucking rocket science, it is simple storytelling and even the most complex Kung-Fu movie relies on simple storytelling. Watch any Jackie Chan movie that has been made in the last 25+ years, they are all simple stories that end with a big fight as the payoff. Hell, that right there is pretty much the whole set-up for EVERY Bruce Lee movie ever made. Even Enter The Dragon. Yes Bruce is recruited by MI6 to blah, blah blah, Mr. Han, blah, blah… Ohara raped my sister, blah, blah, blah… but when you get right down to it Bruce Lee is out to avenge his sister and right the wrong that was done to Shaolin. The MI6/British Intelligence angle isn’t the point. Bruce Lee kicking everyone’s ass… THAT IS THE POINT!
I’m not watching a Kung-Fu movie for a lesson in philosophy. I’m not watching a Kung-Fu movie to be wowed by special effects. I’m watching a Kung-Fu movie because I want to see Kung-Fu fighting with moves that are as fast as lightning. It can be a little bit frightening but it is done with expert timing. Fuck yeah I just paraphrased Carl Douglas’ “Kung-Fu Fighting” but every word is pretty much why I love Kung-Fu and martial arts movies. It doesn’t have to be just Kung-Fu after all. I love watching Japanese Karate movies and even the advent of the Thai action movie over the last few years, where Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin are doing just amazingly awesome things by adding Parkour and Muay Thai to the mix for more dramtic fights.
Don’t know what I’m talking about?
Go rent or buy a copy of Chocolate, one the most awesome of the new wave of martial arts films to come from Thailand. It stars the diminutive little can of whup-ass known as Jeeja Yanin. She will blow your mind with the fight scenes she pulls off. I’m already eagerly awaiting her new movie Raging Phoenix just to see what she’ll pull off next. I mean, any movie that promises me Drunken Boxing versus Drunken Muay-Thai has my interest peaked.
So let sum up today’s rant. Kung-Fu movies in general are awesome, especially those from the 70s and early 80s. Everyone should watch The Chinatown Kid and The Kid With The Golden Arm because… well honestly, they are just awesome fucking movies. If you think the fight choreography from The Matrix movies can’t be beat then you really need to be slapped around and forced to watch the ENTIRE Shaw Brothers catalog from the 70s and pretty much every movie Jackie Chan has made up to Drunken Master II. Remember that the key to a good fight scene is getting across emotion, even Bruce Lee knew that. Finally, don’t dismiss modern martial arts films as Hong Kong, Japan and now Thailand are making really crazy fight movies that will blow your mind and make you want to watch more. Overall remember this, Kung-Fu movies are awesome and are best when kept simple. The more complicated you make it, the less interested the people watching the film will be until… THE FIGHT BREAKS OUT!!