There’s something artistic about the way a martial arts battle can unravel on the screen. More than gritty realistic film fights or movie action in which guns are blazing, martial arts films turn cinematic fights into a visual marvel that’s almost as important, if not more important, than the rest of the story. Whether you’re just getting into the genre or you’re looking to watch movies online and you feel like relaxing with martial arts films, don’t miss these five great films from recent years.
No martial arts film list would be complete without a film starring Chinese martial artist Jet Li. Owing its roots to American, British and French filmmakers, this is truly a global take on the martial arts genre. Also featuring Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins, “Unleashed”stands out from the pack not only because of its powerful fight scenes but because of the strong focus on plot and character development, too.
The film follows the story of Danny the Dog (Li), a brainwashed enforcer for a criminal loan shark (Hoskins). When Danny’s enforcing goes wrong, he crawls away injured into a nearby piano shop, where he meets a blind man (Freeman) and his daughter. Danny starts to become more human with their help, but his past threatens to catch up with him.
2. “Kill Bill”
This two-part American martial arts film follows former assassin “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) on her quest for revenge against Bill (David Carradine), who shot her and left her for dead, killing her unborn child. This film stands out as one of America’s best contributions to martial arts cinema, largely because of director and writer Quentin Tarantino’s fanaticism for the genre. The film is also notable for its graphic depiction of gore, which is sometimes, but not always, a part of the genre. Popular Asian action stars such as Sonny Chiba and Asian-American Lucy Liu take part in the action as well.
3. “True Legend”
This Chinese martial arts film, featuring Michelle Yeoh and Vincent Zhao, was originally shown in theaters in traditional 2D as well as 3D. A must for lovers of historical martial arts films, “True Legend” takes place in ancient China and is the first film in almost 15 years to feature the choreography of legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping.
“True Legend” follows the tale of Su Can (Zhao), a skilled general, who gives up the chance to become a governor in order to retire to a quiet life teaching martial arts. However, that life is shattered when his step-brother, Yuan, to whom he offered the governorship, returns under the guise of family reconciliation. It turns out Su’s father killed Yuan’s father before they became step-siblings, and Yuan has been planning revenge for years.
Based on a popular video game series, this Japanese film features Asian and Asian-American stars such as Jon Foo, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Tamlyn Tomita (of “Karate Kid II”fame). The film is especially noteworthy because it is a co-American, co-Japanese production, and it’s a video game adaptation that enjoyed relative cult success, despite some hokey moments, though it never got wide release in American theaters.
“Tekken”features a dystopian setting. In the near future, major corporations rule the world in the ashes of World War III. These corporations hold an annual martial arts tournament, bestowing riches and fame upon the winner. Jin Kazama (Foo) intends to enter, but not everything is what it seems in the shadowy world behind the scenes of the tournament.
If you’re looking for zombies in your martial arts action, look no further than the Japanese film “Versus.” Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura’s cult martial arts film features Japanese stars Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sasaki and Chieko Misara. Although it never saw worldwide release, the DVD release led to the film’s popularity and even discussions of an American remake.
The film begins with zombie samurai in the 10th century and progresses to modern Japan, where a prisoner escapes, is captured by the yakuza and comes into contact with zombies in the modern era. The yakuza eventually team up with the prisoner, a former assassin, to exterminate the zombies.
So where can you see these films? Check free online movie-streaming services for martial arts films and other action-heavy movies to sate your action-flick appetite.
About the Author: Chuck Sussman is a contributing blogger and martial arts film fanatic. He often blogs for movie review sites and is a frequent user of the Crackle website.
If you enjoyed reading this post, then please remember to post a comment, Subscribe to my RSS feed.