One of the most popular stars of Hong Kong martial arts films throughout the 90’s, charismatic wushu champion Jet Li was at one time considered the heir apparent to the original master, Bruce Lee. Bring it to present day, and his catalog of films have truely been inspirational. He has paved the way for a lot of todays finest martial art actors and I brung it upon myself to compile the list of his Top 10 films. We kick off the list with a film that basically introduced him into American living rooms across the states:
While Jackie Chan was porting over films like Rumble in the Bronx and Mr. Nice Guy, Jet Li was starring in blockbuster films to gain his domestic recognition. Jet Li is absolutely dynamic, and brings a real sense of menace to his character of Ku. For the first time, you get the feeling that Riggs and Murtaugh may be up against more than they can handle by themselves. As mentioned, this is Jet Li’s first American film and it’s no wonder he has become a success since. This film paved the way for his mainstream success and lands a nod at the start of the countdown.
For those who like cross-culture, Romeo Must Die is for you! Jet Li, who was fresh from Lethal Weapon 4 really delivers in this action-packed movie. Following a jailed HK police officer named Han (Li) on his quest to learn the truth about his brother’s death. Upon arrival he meets up with Trish (Aaliyah), the love interest. The film is truly a mixed bag. the way it is shot and filmed is truly slick, with a smooth new-style camera and hip visuals.
Trust me, I know The One gets a lot of hate and has started a pretty garbage duo of Jason Statham/Jet Li buddy films like War. But this movie has personally kick started my interested in Jet Li during the time of it’s release, and made my crush on Carla Gugino ignite even furthur. The slow-mo and fast paced action sequences were very cool. The movie has a somewhat involved plot that the filmakers rush too quickly through just to get to the action. I feel that Jet Li is a wonderful actor, and his english has improved with each American film that he has made.
Although much of this movie was spent on character development and plot-setting, and that Jet Li’s fighting prowess was only a small percentage of the action sequences, I have to give this movie a high ranking. The storlyline was easy to digest and the choreography livens up the screen with genuine artistry. He’s supported by a strong cast including Anita Mui and Yu Wing Gong, and with Yuen Kwai at the helm, you expect quality.
The fight scenes are not your typical martial arts kicking and punching. Danny breaks bones, breaks necks, rips people apart and the sound effects can be disturbing. If you love Jet Li and his incredible acrobatic martial art skills, then this one is for you. Being an English speaking picture they had to work around Jet’s limited English. The story however is perfect for that. Jet is a killing machine that has literally been raised like a dog by a cruel master who uses him to enforce his extortion racket as well as using him to fight in an illegal combat arena where victory only comes with your opponents death. Yes. Awesome.
Most people would expect Hero to be higher on the list, and I would agree for the most part. Unparalleled cinematography, great direction with colors so vibrant they jump off your screen and brilliantly staged. But presentation isn’t everything and unfortunately this film had to be ported over in a mainstream setting. It’s a shame and almost a dealbreaker for me that the original language is not in lossless audio and that the English dubwork isn’t very good for this film. If only more care was given to bring this film stateside. Otherwise it is a solid piece of cinema.
The Warlords is an action epic set during an endless war in 19th century China. Jet Li opens the movie as a disgraced General Pang, who was betrayed and only survived a massacre of his troops by the cowardly act of playing dead. The cinematography is outstanding, the budget is huge, the directing brilliant and the war scenes brutal as can be. As for the battle scenes, it may well be the bloodiest I’ve seen so far in Hong Kong cinema. A great addition to Jet Li’s already impressive filmography.
The film which started one of the most famous and successful Hong Kong franchises of all time is one of the best of all the Wong Fei Hung films. One of the most ingenious fight scenes ever seen and probably the most intriguing, emotional and complex storyline of any Hong Kong Martial Arts film make Once Upon a Time in China enjoyable to almost any Martial Art fan.
A lot of these Martial Arts flick aren’t great movies in the traditional sense. It’s the action scenes that elevate these movies from being enjoyable to greatness. While many of these movies are good when there are no action scenes, but in general that is what elevates them. Fist of Legend is one of the greatest Martial Arts movies and one of the all time great movies period. When there is no action the movie is still great and than on top of that we get some of the greatest fight scenes ever captured in film.
Fearless [directors cut] is inspired by the life of Huo Yuan Jia, real-life Chinese martial arts master. Jet Li plays this legendary figure, whose martial arts style and fearless fight helped the people in China regain their pride. Li also succeeds in bringing life and dignity into the character of Huo Yuan Jia. The fight scenes aren’t just ‘cool’ to look at. They demonstrate a realism which pays great attention to detail to the authenticity of actual martial arts styles and limitations. They depict characters dishing out and taking a lot of punishment, which was characteristic of practitioners of the Iron Fist, Iron Palm and Iron Body disciplines of Kung Fu. As you know, it is said that Fearless will be the last martial arts film for Jet Li. I don’t know if it is really true, but I know this is his best film and a fitting way for him to leave.
There you have it. The man, the legend, the icon, Jet Li! Sound off in the comments section and let me know what your thoughts are!