- Martial Arts Movie Review -

Our unique Martial Arts movie review section gives you top notch access to the best of the Martial Arts movies ever made!

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ONG - BAK (The Thai Warrior), 2005 The Art of high impact kicking (1981)
Secret Rivals I & II (1976 & 1977) Ninja CheckMate (a.k.a. Mystery of Chess Boxing),1979
ShaoLin Rescuers (1978) Dirty tiger, Crazy Frog (1978)
Eagle vs. Silver Fox (1982) The Victim(1980)
Fighting Ace (a.k.a. Kung Fu Ace), 1979 Flag of Iron (a.k.a. Spearman of death), 1980

 

  * ONG - BAK (The Thai Warrior), 2005

5 stars



The movie we've all been waitting for since Bruce Lee!

Tony Jaa's death-defying stunts and disregard for bodily harm make him the long-overdue answer to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

Tony Jaa assaults the screen with a breathtakingly realized physically.

Sheer exhilaration! ONG-BAK is the nuclear bomb of cool.

In every decade, world cinema has produced a new breed of martial arts action hero. In the 1970s, Hong Kong gave the world Bruce Lee, the Kung Fu hero who still casts a long shadow over the industry. In the 1980s, Jackie Chan's blend of physical comedy and amazing stunt work made him an international star. In the 1990s, Jet Li seemingly defied gravity in a string of films that revolutionized martial arts movie-making. Now, the first decade of the new century has already spawned a unique superstar. He hails from Thailand, and his name is Tony Jaa...

Tony Jaa

A fearless martial artist:

Tony Jaa has been obsessed with martial arts, and martial arts movies, since childhood. He dedicated every ounce of his youthful energy to his training, rising at 5:00AM and training until 10:00, then resuming from afternoon to evening. Tony's initial influence was Hog Kong action star Jackie Chan. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Tony refuses to use wires, CGI or camera tricks to enhance his action. Everything you see on-screen is real, and he has the bruises, burns and scars to prove it.

At the age of 15, he saw the Thai action film 'Born To Fight', starring and directed by Panna Rithikrai. The student was ready, and the teacher duly appeared, in the person of Panna himself. Panna, a veteran of Thai action cinema, took Tony under his wing, training him in Kung Fu and stunt work. Tony also studied Taekwondo, swordplay and gymnastics. His skills became so advanced that he gave demonstrations in Northeast Thailand and China.

Tony finally added his native sport to his physical repertoire, and began training in Muay Thai four years ago, specifically for his role in 'ONG-BAK'. On its release, 'ONG-BAK', on which he also worked as fight choreographer, became a smash hit, and it established Tony as Thailand's top action actor.

Ong-Bak�s huge success worldwide proves that real martial arts fans are craving for true, genuine & authentic Martial Arts movies & the thirst for this kind of movie hasn�t diminished. In fact it has increased! Upon the desperate migration of martial arts movie icons Jackie Chan & Jet Li to Hollywood in order to attract more non martial arts fans, the whole genre produced absolute disappointments one after another. Movies like Toxido, Medallion (Jackie Chan) or The One (Jet Li) proved that there is a huge need for a new martial arts sensation. One that brings back the originality of martial arts & hope for true, authentic martial arts movie! This movie (Ong-Bak) was a shock & wake up call for the Hong Kong movie industry, which once was the mecca of the martial arts movie. The reality is that today�s Hong Kong martial arts cinema (and its Hollywood counterpart) lost touch with reality and with the base of support that brought them magnificence & glory during the 70�s and up until the mid 80�s.

They forgot why Bruce Lee, with only five movies completed, still shines at the top of the list of martial arts movie action stars after three decades of his passing. His work was extra ordinary, fantastic, authentic, real, true, doable & beautifully exciting!

Instead, they utilized computer graphics, wire work & excessive use of stunt doubles which made their movies unrealistic. By doing this more damage than good was done to the martial arts community!

Ong-Bak exploded amidst all this chaos! It proved that fans are still craving for good Martial Arts movies. This is an extraordinary Martial Arts movie based on a true performance! Tony Jaa�s extensive use of elbow and knee strikes (highlights of Muay Thai Boxing) is amazing and breathe taking. The complexity of his techniques has never been seen before. The Producers and Directors have obviously studied the trend of Martial Arts movies for the last three decades and came up with innovative ideas and techniques which make this movie a historic event.
The number of different camera locations, taking multiple angles, filming regular and slow motion; this is a sign of their extensive research of Martial Arts movies from all over the world! To make something unique that has never been done before. This is amazing considering Thailand cinema has not even been part of the Martial Arts movie making community like: Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Hollywood. For his performance in this movie, it�s obvious why Tony Jaa gets a special award from the government of Thailand.

On March 11, 2005 Tony Jaa received an honor award for his role in Ong-Bak and was promoted by Thai government as �the cultural ambassador in Thai movies�.

From a martial arts point of view, this is an awesome movie. This movie sets higher international standards for generations of Martial Arts movie making. No wires, stuntmen or computer graphics were used. This extravagance of martial art is so realistic (especially after seeing behind the scenes) that truly, made the storyline. That being said, there are some points that the Producer, Directors and Actor Tony Jaa can look into�

For some unknown reasons, there had been many shots filmed in an underground and in a cave. Why do this, as it makes the movie very dark? Also, what was the significance of choosing a bad guy (the big boss) who cannot talk properly, because of his malfunctioning throat?

They could also have added the beauty of scenery to the movie. There are a lot of beautiful places in Thailand that they could use, such as the one that has been used in the James Bond movie �The Man with the Golden Gun� and Jackie Chan�s �Around The World In 80 Days�. This may be the reason that part of Tony Jaa�s next film was shot in Australia.
Tony Jaa is the new and exciting martial arts action star in the film industry. He has breathed life into the martial arts film industry and with that, we hope, will come renewed and greater interest in the martial arts community.

Tony Jaa has just finished shooting his new movie called Tom-Yum-Goong (Muay Thai fighter) which was partly shot in Australia, dated to release in August 2005, so watch for it!

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The Art Of High-Impact Kicking   * The Art of high impact kicking (1981)

5 stars

Master Hwang Jang Lee stars in this fantastic martial arts picture!

He proves that his kicking ability is unique and without equal!

Athough this picture does not show all his capabilities, it is one of the most versatile and widest ranging pictures ever made on the subject of kicking!

Here you see the man with his unparallel kicking arsenal, who unfortunatelly remains critically unappreciated due to the fact that he played the villain in the most of his films and also being a non-chinese playing in Hong Kong movies.

This man played a significant role in making stars like Jackie Chan when nobody knew them!

It was spectacular art work of master Hwang Jang Lee who gave Jackie Chan the better look and outstanding performance in movies like Drunken Master and Snake in the eagle's shadow!

Studying this film is a must for any serious martial artist who has a keen interest in the art of dynamic kicking!

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Secret Rivals I Secret Rivals II   * Secret Rivals I & II,1976 &1977

three and half stars

Both films were produced by ShangHai born Ng See Yuen who colaborated with the shaw brothers studio as assistant director in 1967.

These movies were made one year apart in 1976 & 1977. You will see John Liu as the leading actor with his exceptional kicking arsenal.

The Chinese titles for these 2 movies read like this: Southern fist and Northern kick. John Liu represents Nothern kick who with his ally, Southern fist confronts the legendary Hwang Jang Lee (the villain). They team up to represent the glory & magnificence of Southern Shaolin fist and Northern Shaolin kicks power.

Wang Tao plays Southern fist in the first episode, he is then replaced in the second episode by Wong Cheung, another Chinese actor who also played & fought with Jackie Chan in Snake in the eagle's shadow. Although there are some fights between John Liu & his Southern counterpart in both movies, the main fight is with both of them united againest legendary kicker Hwang Jang Lee, which makes the climax of the film!

Secret Rivals I & II are considered one of the collections of classic Hong Kong Martial Arts movies!

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Ninja CheckMate (a.k.a. Mystery of Chess Boxing)   * Ninja CheckMate (a.k.a. Mystery of Chess Boxing),1979

Two and half stars

Dir: Joseph Ko

This is a movie which followed Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master" in 1978. They even tried to have Simon Yuen (Jachie Chan's master in "Drunken Master") in this movie. So he plays a cameo as a cook giving Li Yi Min some advice on his fighting abilities.

Li Yi Min is the star, while Jack Long ("7 Grand master of Kung Fu") plays his master and Mark Long (also in "7 Grand master of Kung Fu") plays as ghost face killer.

The movie starts in slow Tempo and half of the way through gets fast and ferocious! The highlight of the movie is at the very end! A spectacular fight between Jack and Mark Long first and later Li Yi Min joining his master, Jack Long continues the long fight until the ghost face killer is defeated.

The idea of using chess theory as a part of fighting strategy was fresh and new!

The training sessions are awesome. Mark Long (ghost face killer) is fantastic except for the lack of speed of his kicks which are not compatible with rest of his skill.

Jack Long, the master is phenomenal and Li Yi Min tries his best to be another Jackie Chan, but simply is not. This is one of the many reasons why Jackie Chan is still around, after all these year

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ShaoLin Rescuers   * ShaoLin Rescuers (a.k.a. Avenging Warriors of ShaoLin),1978

3 stars

Dir: Chang Cheh

The Venoms are back in this story of bravery, honour and degnity that retells the struggle between Shaolin Temple and the Wu Tang Clan. It's a long movie, about 108 minutes, and big part of it (about 90 minutes) is filled with fighting and training.

We see how they use practicaly everything in their environment as weapon!

Director Chang Cheh who has been considered the Martial Arts movie machine by many, has done another terrific job in creating this movie. Even the most prolific of Kung Fu film makers agreed that the quality of his work varied widely, but Chang Cheh remains a true phenomenon within the genre, both in terms of the number of films he made and the careers he's lauched!

A runing scene at the end which shows two survivors scaping for their lives, like some other similar story line movies, e.g. "invincible Shaolin", depicts Shaolin struggle to be alive and well for years to come.

This is one of the movies by which Chang Cheh gave Shaolin films international cinematic respect. He if again united with 5 venoms and continue on his mission to bring Shaolin Martial Arts film to even more wondrous heights.

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Dirty tiger, Crazy Frog   * Dirty tiger, Crazy Frog (1978)

3 stars

Dir: Karl Maka

This action comely Martial Arts movie combined the talents of 3 members of the prolific Hong Kong cinema: Samo Hung, Lau Kar Wing and Karl Maka who became partner in the Gar Bo films company.

Lau Kar Wing like his elder brother, Lau Kar Leung started his Martial Arts training under their father Lau Charn and later worked as a stuntman, Kung Fu fighter and actor on the Wong Fei Hung series.

The great Samo Hung coming from the famous Peking opera school showcased his unparallel skills with Lau Kar Wing in this movie!

The opening scene starts with a dazzling display of weaponry by Lau Kar Wing and the movie ends with a spectacular fight between these two, showing their excellent weaponry; the amazing fight with a Bo (staff) which turns to a 3 section staff is second to none!

Samo Hung and Lau Kar Wing also play together in "Odd couple", in 1979 one year after, which resembles this movie.

"Odd couple" directed by Lau Kar Wing. Both movies demonstrate their amazing weapon skills.

Despite of "Dirty tiger, Crazy flog" which emphasized on long staff and 3 section staff, in "Odd couple that emphasize shifts towards sword and spear!

This movie is one of the great accomplishments of Samo Hung and Lau Kar Wing and it does not neglect the importance of weaponry as a importnat part of a good Martial Arts movie!

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Eagle vs. Silver Fox   * Eagle vs. Silver Fox (1982)


Dir:Godfrey Ho

M/A Dir:Hwang Jang Lee

This is another failed attempt by Korean cinema to imitate Hong Kong Martial Arts movie excellence and proves why and how some actors and Martial Artists even as great as H. J. Lee need to remain in front of the camera and be guided by great directors!

Although even in Hong Kong cinema the rate of good Martial Arts movies to bad ones is 1 to 7, still the good ones come from there.

Karea and Japan tried to put their mark on Martial Arts movies, especially in 70's and 80's, but as with this movie, nothing significant resulted out of that endevour!

Two fights at the beginning and at the end of the movie are worth mentioning, because H. J. Lee's participation and his own unique and irreplaceble kicking abilities.

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The Victim   * The Victim (1980)

4 stars

Dir:Samo Hung

Actors:Samo Hung, Leung Kar Yan, Chang Yi

Samo Hung is leading actor, choreographer and director in this movie, and Huang Feng produces it.

But it's Leung kar Yan who shines in this movie!

This is Leung Kar Yan's best performance ever! Thanks to Samo's exceptional choreography and directorial skills.

Leung Kar Yan has never been this magnificient!

The closing fight at the end of the movie is breathtaking and impossible to forget!

Its worth mentioning the fighting sequences staged by Samo Hung who has been assisted by Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying and Billy Chan. Leung Kar Yan, this sternly handsome actor was a regular member of Samo Hung's troupe, playing leading roles alongside Samo in films like this one and Knockabout (1979).

Considering that he made a living out of Kung Fu films, it may come a as surprise to learn, he never underwent martial arts training prior to working in the industry. "He wasn't a martial artist." reveals Samo, "But he was someone who could copy techniques perfectly.

In a way, that's better than someone who has had a lot of training in a particular style. That style will influence everything they do, even if their charactor is not trained in that art.

In Warriors two (one of the best martial arts movies ever made), Leung Kar Yan just copies the movements that we showed him, but now no one believes that he wasn't a real Wing Chun master!"

Leung's career are reflects the cyclic nature of Hong Kong cinema. When the initial Kung Fu boom failed, he made various lackluster martial arts movies in Taiwan. Returning to Hong Kong, He played both good and bad guy roles in contemporary martial arts thrillers, like Killer Angels (1989) and Final run (1989).

When the John Woo/heroic blood shed style came into vogue, he starred in films like The Last Blood (1991) and Red Shield (1991). And when Kung Fu made its inevitable come back, Leung Kar Yan was ready and waiting. He shaved his head and atarred opposite Jet Li in Last Hero in China (1993).

Leung played the same charactor, Ah Foon, that he had portrayed in yuen Woo Ping's Dread naught (1981) some 12 years earlier. Amazingly he does not look all that different.

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Fighting Ace   * Fighting Ace (a.k.a. Kung Fu Ace), 1979

3 stars

Dir:Chang Cher Ting

Actors:John Liu, Kwan Young Moon

John Liu stars in this movie as an orphan growing up to find his perfect master in order to learn Kung Fu and revenge his parents' death!

The hightlight of the movie is John Liu's training sessions, particularly with legendary kicker Kwan Young Moon.

John Liu shows off his impressive bootwork in this movie, specially in the final battle at the end of the movie.

An exceptional kicker; Kwan Young Moon like his other Korean counterpart (Casanova Wong, Hwang Jang Lee, Wang In Shik,....) contributed greatly to the magnificence of Hong Kong movies in 70's.

Kwan Young Moon played in numorous Hong Kong movies with great stars of the Hong Kong movies industry; with Jackie Chan in Dragon Lord; with Samo Hung in the Dead and the deadly and with Gordon Liu in Return to 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

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Flag of Iron   * Flag of Iron (a.k.a. Spearman of death), 1980

three and half stars

Dir:Chang Cheh

Chang Cheh has done it again!

Although not all of the venoms are present, most of are.Beautiful mastery of weaponry is displayed, plus the use of flag as a weapon is seen for the first time in a martial arts movie!

The Shaw Brothers stage setting style is magnificent!

This movie once again glorifies the Shaw Brothers co. ability to create an authentic, original and unique platform for the camera.

Lighting and costume design for the actors are awesome! creative and mysterious weapon selection remain the very highlight of this unforgetable classic!

The combination of Shaw Brothers, venoms and legendary Chang Cheh makes this movie another classic in the martial arts movie treasury!

Meticulous artwork, paying attention to all the details and incredible hardwork of this superteam proves why and how even for the Hong Kong movie industry it is now incredibly difficult to create the same kinds of masterpieces that they did back in 70's.

Movies like Flag of Iron remain the jewels of the martial arts treasury!

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