C'mon Hollywood #222
...Martial Arts needs a comeback!
by J.A. Hamilton
Michael Jai White deserves to be an A-list action star
I grew up on martial arts flicks in the eighties, when guys like Sho Kosugi (who I was happy to see score the role of Lord Ozunu in the Wachowski produced NINJA ASSASSIN), Jet Li and Jackie Chan were all kicking ass and taking names. Michael Dudikoff won me over with AMERICAN NINJA, overwhelming my young mind with the idea that I didn’t have to be Asian to become a ninja. I was also a big fan of the Phillip Rhee led BEST OF THE BEST films. Then there was Jeff Speakman who came out of nowhere back in 1991 with one of my favorite martial arts flicks THE PERFECT WEAPON. His theatrical run ended there, but he had a slew of straight to DVD goodies like STREET KNIGHT, THE EXPERT and DEADLY OUTBREAK. Speakman’s a 4th degree black belt in Kempo Karate, and like Michael Jai White, is amazingly quick and agile for a man his size.
Ok, concentrate...this does NOT hurt like hell
My favorite late eighties/early nineties martial arts star is still Loren Avedon. I’ll never forget the first time I watched KING OF THE KICKBOXERS (aka NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 4). I was blown away by his fighting prowess, attitude and overall presence on film (and that bamboo cage fight between him and Billy Blanks is the stuff of legend). I always joked that Avedon should’ve been cast as Johnny Cage in MORTAL KOMBAT, which would’ve made the film a hundred times cooler and probably saved him from being killed off at the beginning of the sequel. NRNS 3: BLOOD BROTHERS was another favorite as well as TIGER CLAWS 3 (where Avedon was also fight choreographer). And speaking of TIGER CLAWS, the first and second one featured the underrated Bolo Yeung (BLOODSPORT, ENTER THE DRAGON), who was THE villain I loved to hate. I also miss Brandon Lee, may he rest in peace.
You have TWO choices Avedon, buy my Tae Bo video or DIE
These past few years haven’t exactly been void of martial arts films, with guys like Jet Li and Jackie Chan having gone mainstream, but I wouldn’t say they’re being pushed to their limits in most cases (to this day I refuse to re-watch LETHAL WEAPON 4 because I can’t stand seeing Danny Glover and Mel Gibson take down Jet Li when I know he could kill them both five times before they even hit the ground). Jason Statham’s martial arts side took me by surprise in THE TRANSPORTER. I remember watching the trailer and thinking WTF, where were those moves in SNATCH and THE ONE? Seeing Statham break into the “action tough guy” genre was nice, God knows we need all the action stars we can get these days, and it’s for that reason I think martial arts needs to make a comeback. This may not hit a chord with the younger teen generation (who probably haven’t heard of half these guys), but surely I’m not the only one who misses them.
Mel and Danny's reaction after hearing they'll fight Jet Li and win
This brings me full circle back to Michael Jai White. If ensemble casts are gonna be the “new thing,” I say we have MJW lead an all-star martial arts lineup unlike anything we’ve seen before (cast-wise anyway). I’m talking Loren Avedon, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michael Dudikoff, Dolph Lundgren, Phillip Rhee, Ray Park, Jason Scott Lee, Jeff Speakman, Sho Kosugi, Bolo Yeung, Billy Blanks, Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and anyone else interested. Make the plot a tournament style event with a series of challenges as well as individual matches. Shoot it JCVD style, having all the actors play themselves competing for the title of “world’s best martial artist”, as well as a film contract to headline the next “theatrical martial arts flick” with a tag line like “No one gave them a second chance, until now.” Sure, I'm kinda spitballing here, but a “real-life” tournament for a shot at a comeback? Now THAT is a movie I’d stand in line for!
|Extra Tidbit:||It was back in High School that I came up with an “actors playing themselves” tournament idea like that. Hell, I’d write the script right now if I thought it had a chance in hell of getting made.|