Inspired by his idol, Bruce Lee, Yen not only explored a wide variety of different fighting styles, he also created his own unique martial arts system. Donnie Yen has the skills and experience to transcend boundaries between Hollywood East and West. This is why in my eyes he shold be honored with his own Top 10 List here at Japan Cinema. Below are the top films that star or co-star the legendary Donnie Yen:
Ip Man 2 kick off the list and is Yen’s newest film to date. If you don’t know, Ip Man was a grandmaster of Wing Chun martial arts. Set in the 1950’s, is about him starting a Wing Chun school and the real life ending where 10 year-old Bruce Lee came and wanted to be his student. Ip Man 2 is quite good, lots of fighting scenes but the storyline is somehow abit short and just too simple. All in all, I can’t knock this movie down too hard because Ip Man 2 closely resembles the format that made its predecessor a blockbuster hit.
Blade 2 was my first experience with Donnie Yen and I remember thinking why he didn’t get more screen time as he was the best thing about the film. He had zero dialogue and was only on screen for about 5 minutes but it left an impression on me that still resonates years later. This interest led me to view his entire catalog of films and I owe Blade 2 to this.
Donnie Yen cements his mark on martial arts Wuxia films with this film. Although, not the best movie on the list, 14 blades is a strong entry in his showcase. Still, not to take anything away from this film, but Donnie Yen is capable of better. Quite honestly, due to the spurts of action and cool CGI this film is one of his nicest looking films to date.
The movie Seven Swords is a really spectacular production with a really great story line and cast. Donnie Yen fans rest assured, this is a very easy movie to obtain unlike a few of his other films. Admittedly if you want to see a Donnie Yen showcase, you might want to look elsewhere. The film uses his acting chops with less emphasis on fights. I won’t lie though, even though a lot of the fight scenes seem to fall short until the end of the film, the ending battle is truely awesome.
Donnie Yen, next to Jackie Chan, is my favorite action stars in Asia. His work as an action choreographer has become increasingly in demand over the last few years, and after watching Kill Zone it´s apparent just why. Everyone involved contributed great performances to the film and really added depth and believability to the film’s story. Yen is doing double duty here with his role in the film and acting as fight choreographer. His choreography delivers some wonderfully brutal fight scenes that leave you begging for more. If you’re a fan of Donnie Yen, this is a must own.
With Ip Man, Donnie Yen takes on his meatiest role yet. Ip Man doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to martial arts action. Donnie Yen has always been serious about martial arts, and he certainly delivers in his portrayal of the founder of Wing Chun. It’s like poetry in motion with some astounding closed quarter combat utilizing plenty of upper limb strength. Action junkies will be holding their breath to see if the martial artist and actor can outdo himself.
Iron Monkey was the first Asian film I ever purchased on DVD. It’s a classic in my book. In a city where poor, desperate peasants are taken advantage of by greedy merchants and corrupt bureaucrats, the Iron Monkey swoops around by night, playing Robin Hood, ensuring that the people have enough to eat and their masters get smacked on the nose. Iron Monkey delivers a simple and satisfying good vs. evil buddy story with mind-blowing action sequences and what may be the best villain entrance ever.
Like most Donnie Yen action movies, the cops-and-robbers stuff is merely filler material until the Third Act, when Yen is allowed to do what he does best, and what Donnie Yen does best is whoop ass like the Terminator on speed. Flash Point only seems to aim at pleasing action fans, with intense action sequence begins with a standoff using automatic weapons that help to rid the cast of unwanted extras and splatters the camera lens with blood. But when the bullets run out, Yen and Chou lock into a bone-crunching and devastating hand-to-hand brawl that features some of these martial artists’ most brutal fight choreography caught on film.
Hero is a great film, flat out. It is a fantastic film experience, filled with brilliant performances from end to end, including cinematography, acting and directing. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. And it’s a return to form for Jet Li, whose American efforts never reached the potential of his earlier Chinese films and who now finally has a project worthy of his talent. Donnie Yen’s character plays the perfect supporting actor to boast Jet Li’s career into A list status.
So what does Dragon Tiger Gate do well? Well, the promotional materials promise a load of martial arts action and the film certainly delivers that. It’s a basic movie, constructed from basic plots, with its one saving grace being the intricate action choreography by Donnie Yen. Needless to say, you won’t be spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out what is happening in Dragon Tiger Gate. It is balls to the wall action that had my jaw on the floor. Donnie Yen outdid himself with this one.
There you have it folks, the man, the myth, the legend. If you are unfamiliar with Donnie Yen I hope this list proved useful and you get to experience him first-hand. Feel free to comment with thoughts or suggestions or perhaps you have your own top 10 list, I would love to hear it. Until next time…