I was never a big fan of martial arts films. That may seem strange, considering the fact that I have trained in a variety of fighting styles for years, but most fight films are simply too terrible to bother watching. It isn’t really the genre’s fault; basic logic explains why they all suck:
Good martial artists are rarely good actors, and vice versa. Jet Li is scary-fast and uber-talented when it comes to punching and kicking, but there are floor tiles in my kitchen that can emote better than he can. Sadly, Jackie Chan is worse, since he fancies himself a comedian. And a director. And a writer. The man is ill-qualified for all of those roles.
There are very few believable reasons to settle a dispute with a long, grueling, acrobatic, unarmed brawl. Guns have been around for something like 600 years, and violent men and women usually rely on them to solve their conflicts quickly and efficiently. They so rarely need to jump kick the competition. So you always end up with these horrendous contrivances as to why they don’t just pull out a .45 and off the other guy with it. The gun gets jammed by a magic spell. All weapons are taken by metal-detecting guards at the secret entry to the island. Weapons are forbidden by the sacred rules of the inter-dimensional combat tournament extravaganza. Luckily, the men and women in those unlikely situations are always black belts in twelve different fighting styles, and many of them seem to have magical suspension wires naturally growing out of their hips that can latch onto cranes always lurking just out of view in the sky.
The amount of punishment a human being can realistically absorb doesn’t lend itself to the 10+ minute battles you need to justifiably call yourself a martial arts film. If someone smashes their steel-toed boot into the side of your head with a single tornado kick, you can very easily die from the impact. Unless you are in a kung fu movie. In which case you shrug it off like a kitten just batted you playfully across the face. I guess that I am expected to believe that true men have skeletons made of titanium or everyone in these movies has fists and feet made of cotton balls.
While I stand by these facts, a friend of mine has managed to renew my faith in martial arts movies with this clip:
There is so much awesomeness here that it is impossible to get it all. But I will try.
- The knife-lick. It’s scary. It’s sexy. It tells your opponent, “I’m gonna cut you up, but I love your body.”
- The big, curly, black mullet. It’s a party all over, buddy.
- The matching psycho eyes. I’m sure that these two guys are going for intensity, but it really just comes off as barely restrained lust.
- The varied use of parachute-esque black chinos. They’re not just for doctors; you can wear them with man-blouses too!
- Yaaahrh! Must be yelled with every movement for maximum combat effectiveness. Bonus points for noise consistency. (I think they may only have had the budget for one Yaaahrh! And they ended up dubbing all subsequent Yaaahrh!s with the one they recorded.)
- The two “slow-motion” drool punches to the face of man-blouse. Fine, we couldn’t get the good high-speed cameras, but that’s nothing some great physical acting can’t solve!
- The jumping-spinning-backhand-dragon-claw-shirt-render. You have to be a double-black belt in awesome to be able to tear through two solid layers of cotton twill like that. Take that, Doctor Mullet!
- The mutual decision to continue the fight without shirts. It would be bad if they had contrived some way for their shirts to get torn off by accident (as often happened to the women in 80s comedies), but it’s so much more believable when the combatants stop and make un unspoken agreement to dramatically tear off their tops without fear of sneak-attacks.
- The natural oiliness that real men exude at all times. I thought only aquatic mammals could pump waterproofing gunk out of themselves that fast.
- Top notch sportsmanship! Nothing like fighting by taking strictly regulated turns. I think these guys may have played too many tabletop games as children.
- The triple sternum hammer. Doctor Mullet does it at 1:19 and it is outstanding. It’s also great for reviving people whose hearts have stopped.
- Knife sparks! It’s a dangerous thing in a room that looks ripe for a gas leak. Also, it’s really hard on the absurdly impractical prop knife blades.
- The angry face grab. This is only really awesome because of the excruciatingly long reaction time of the grab’s victim.
- The excruciatingly long reaction time of the face grab victim. Doctor Mullet appears not to have nerves in his face that tell him that he is getting angry-palmed by Man-Blouse. But when he does finally realize that his eyes are being gouged, he also seems to remember that he has another arm that he can bring into play. Way to remember the left!
- The clavicle grip. Doctor Mullet wasn’t about to pass up the bone known as “Nature’s Bike Handle.” Not sure what he planned on doing with it though.
- Oh thank God the woman with the sling is here to save them!
- Of all the available weapons, why did she pick the wet towel? Was there not a pipe or a wrench or a pipe-wrench or something there to use instead? Watch out or she might snap you with it.
- Somewhere there is a janitor saying, “Oh no, I knew that I shouldn’t have jammed a rusty nail into the wall at eye height to hang my rags.” Too bad for Doctor Mullet.
- The inexplicable politeness. Your mortal enemy is clutching the ragged hole where his eye used to be and the two of you are standing there waiting for him to regain his faculties. Now is the time to jump-kick him! Now! Do it!
- The trolley flip follow-through. Yes, you just tossed Sling Lady up and over the food trolley, but did you have to roll over it yourself instead of just going around? Was that necessary?
- Whoa, wait. Did Sling Lady just do a back flip? That seems… ill-advised. But then again, this is the lady that chose damp linens as a weapon.
- Another eye gouge! Good thing this one does in Doctor Mullet or else we’d have to find a creative way for him to get his tongue torn out. Also, Sling Lady is one tough customer; that blood hardly fazes her.
- “Keep an eye out for you, Stingray.” A man was just hoisted into the air by his eye socket. You are covered in his blood. Was a pun necessary? Also, is that his real name? Is it Dr. Stingray? Or Bob Stingray? Or is Stingray his first name? Like Stingray Popidopolous? So many unanswered questions.
- The follow-up pun. See ya? Really Man-Blouse? That’s the best you can offer? That long pause before you say it makes it seem like you were working really, really hard at coming up with a stellar line to cap off the action. Now I just feel let down.