Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thanks Bobby Wang, or how I learned to love the martial arts film

As step one in researching my new martial arts script, I have to watch a shitload of martial arts films. I mean it's really tough work, you guys. It takes concentration and shit because I have to read subtitles.

I started with Hard Boiled. I've seen Hard Boiled before, but it was a lifetime ago during high school when Bobby Wang made us all sit in his house when his parents were out of town and watch Hard Boiled and Half a Loaf of Kung Fu. At the time I had no idea why either film was so special, and then I got distracted when Jason Peterson passed out in the bathtub next to a pool of his own vomit. That was probably around the time when Bobby kept rewinding the scene where that dude rides in on his motorcycle and unleashes hell in the warehouse. I remember that scene really well, mostly because we watched it like eight times that night.

So now I'm watching Hard Boiled again with a greater appreciation for not only martial arts films, but films in general. At my house we didn't watch movies that much, and when we did they tended to be musicals or popular Hollywood pics. I didn't know Hong Kong action existed until I met Bobby Wang, and even then I didn't really get the hype.

I also didn't appreciate how hot Chow Yun Fat was in this movie. Hell he's still hot and I'd still nail him. But you know until a few years ago, I only knew him from Crouching Tiger and The Replacement Killers. I had no idea he had this career before he came to America.

I had the same experience with Jet Li. I thought he was awesome in Lethal Weapon 4, but when Ex Fiance showed me that first Once Upon a Time in China film, I was in love. It took me a while, but eventually Bobby Wang's effort to spread his love for the modern martial arts film caught up to me.

Next up in my queue I have The Curse of the Golden Flower, A Touch of Zen, Infernal Affairs, Wasabi, The Chinese Connection and The Emperor and the Assassin. I think later on I have some Kurosawa films coming up too.

I can't wait until I'm a full time screenwriter and I can take this shit off on my taxes.


  1. I have Once Upon a Time in China on my Netflix queue so I'm gonna watch that this week. Can't wait.

  2. good luck. some of these movies be very will hard to sit thru, cause the oldies, they just take too long to end the 2nd act. some are painfull.

  3. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Jet Li's HK flics can be hit or miss sometimes, but my favorite is Fist of Legend. Golden Flower and Emperor and The Assassin are mainland films and are much less of the chop-socky flavor. Try http://www.kfccinema.com/ as a jumping off point, some good reviews on various HK style films.

  4. Thanks for the link!

    The mainland style is more of what I'm going for in my script, but I wanted to get a well rounded education on the subject, so I'm watching everything I can.

  5. I love HK films, because they take things to the limit. Some are great, some suck, but they all have energy to spare.

    Some of my favorite John Woo movies:

    A BULLET IN THE HEAD - imagine 4 dopey high school kids on spring break... in Viet Nam. Smuggling drugs and getting caught in the crossfire.

    THE KILLER - starring Mr. Chow. A cop and a killer play a game of cat and mouse... until they end up on the same side, working together.

    A BETTER TOMORROW - Starring Mr. Chow. Two mid-level gangsters are double crossed by the kid they are training... Years later, they try to put their lives back together. Yes, that involves lots of slow motion shoot outs.

    HARDBOILED you got.

    Jackie Chan is funny - but has the most amazing, inventive action scenes ever put on film. This is a guy who can turn a shopping cart into a weapon!

    The 4 POLICE STORY movies are fun cop action films, with some amazing stunts and fantastic fights.

    The two ARMOR OF GOD movies are Indiana Jones type adventure films with amazing stunts and some big action set pieces.

    My new favorite HK director has actually been around for a while, I loved his HEROIC TRIO movie (about 3 kick ass female kung fu fighters) before I knew who he was. Johnny To - and he makes 2 to 4 films a year. This link goes to a clip from ELECTION 2, a beautiful and brutal crime film. Here's what I like about this guy - 4 films a year, and look at his shot composition!
    Election 2 clip

    Hey, only so many hours in a day, but when you've seen everything else in the Netflix cue, and get bored, this will give you something to watch.

    If you are looking for swordfighting stuff - go back to the 70s HK stuff.

    I have really bad taste, so I like the Lone Wolf & Cub movies and Razor Honzo from Japan. These are ultra violent crap.

    - Bill

  6. If you haven't, check out Ong


  7. Good Lord. Now I'm never gonna leave my couch.

  8. Anonymous6:13 PM

    All of Bill's recommendations are excellent. Flashpoint and SPL (both with Donnie Yen) are pretty decent newer HK flics.

    Johnny To's "Exiled" is awesome as well kind of a Woo meets Leone vibe. One of the better flics to come out in a while. You may also want to look at a Korean film called A Bittersweet Life.

  9. One of the best of the 70's was "The Five Deadly Venoms" but it's one of several great ones by the Shaw Brothers.

    Don't get the "Return of" version, like most sequels, it's not nearly as good. Also try to get one that's not a redub. While the original doesn't have the english match their lip movements, the story makes more sense.

    For cultural reference, Kung-Fu Panda takes from the old Shaw Brothers Films.

  10. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Hi Emily and Bill Martell,
    I have a script which is close CHASER, OLD BOY, KILL BILL...

    How would one market it in Asia and Europe?

    Would Japan and Hong Kong have a spec market?

    Would Japan and Hong Kong have a forum like Done Deel and Moviebytes



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