In the pantheon of martial arts stars, it was always staggering that Mark Dacascos does not have more notoriety. He possesses all the attributes one would expect of a box office draw: good looks, athleticism, theatrical timing and most importantly, genuine martial arts pedigree and skill. Strangely, he’s still not talked about with the same reverence as his contemporaries such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Dacascos’ father Al, of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese ancestry, created his own hybrid martial art (Wun Hop Kuen Do meaning ‘combined fist style’) based on, among other styles, Kung Fu. When Mark blended his father’s teachings with Muay Thai, Wushu and Capoeira as an adolescent, the result was an exciting mix of brutal upper limb strikes and dynamic spinning kicks. Dacascos also shows great skill with a blade, as evidenced in the movies “American Samurai” and “Crying Freeman”.
Mark Dacascos was discovered whilst walking down the street in California in 1985, and within 10 years had starred in several recognized movie titles, including the video game remake “Double Dragon” and the fifth installment of the Kickboxer franchise “Redemption”. Given how prolific Dacascos has been, it was a difficult task to square down his fight scenes to just 10 but here we go! (in descending order) …
10. “Only the Strong” (1993) – Mark Dacascos vs ‘Silverio’
Whilst not a box office hit, “Only the Strong” was one of the first movies to positively bring Capoeira to a wider audience and carried some important life lessons. Dacascos’ character Louis Stevens is a former Green Beret who teaches local, at-risk youth character and respect through the martial art of Capoeira. He also provides the local gang leader with some schooling in this scene, using a myriad of wheel, roundhouse and tornado kicks to vanquish his opponent.
9. “Cradle 2 the Grave” (2003) – Mark Dacascos vs Jet Li
In the great tradition of martial artists teaming with rappers (recall, “Half Past Dead”?) Jet Li teams with Wu-Tang’s DMX to take on illegal weapons dealer Ling (played by Dacascos). Dacascos shows his acting range as a heel, and proves to be an unlikable villain despite his garish good looks. The final showdown between Dacascos and Li is a treat and begins with one of the best kicking sequences in the genre. Taking place within a circle of fire, both Dacascos and Li display amazing speed and technique in a battle of two martial art heavyweights.
8. “The Base” (1999) – Mark Dacascos vs soldiers
Secretly undercover, Dacascos playing John Dalton must prove his fighting toughness and skill to fellow soldiers in “The Base”. This sequence, taking place in a military training facility, pits a hard-as-nails Dacascos against multiple armed opponents. Particularly raw, hard-hitting and gritty, Dacascos wastes no time or energy here using stiff kicks and throws to ensure he earns the respect of his fellow combatants and show he is prepared to do whatever it takes to serve his country. (We wonder how much pain and bruising the actors might well have suffered, ouch!)
7. “The Legend of Bruce Lee” (TV series, 2008) – Mark Dacascos vs Bruce Lee
Although not technically a movie, this fight scene pits Dacascos’ character, King Charles against a young Bruce Lee. Dacascos demonstrates his range of martial arts skills here by almost exclusively using Muay Thai-style attacks. There is a grittier feel here than what we are used to seeing from Mark, but this proves effective in perpetuating the “Muay Thai vs Jeet Kune Do” narrative of the scene. Look for the classic hallmarks of the Muay Thai style; the light front leg, and offensive, brutal knee and elbow attacks and the use of the clinch to deliver focused strikes.
6. “Crying Freeman” (1995) – Mark Dacascos vs Chinese Triads
In this final forest battle with the Chinese Triads, Dacascos yet again shows his all-round martial arts proficiency by dispatching a dozen suited henchmen with swords akimbo (duel wielding). Reminiscent of the “Crazy 88” fight from Kill Bill. Mark is in incredible shape here, somersaulting and pirouetting weapon in hand, he carries this scene off with flawless style and conviction. Just check out those tattoos, the music is pretty awesome too!
5. “Brotherhood of the Wolf” (2001) – Mark Dacascos vs Gypsy clan
Released in France as “Le Pacte des loups”, this historical action/horror piece is set against the background of regional France pre-revolution. Dacascos’ character Mani, in search of the infamous and mysterious wolf, is ambushed by a hoard of gypsies. Dacascos shows his proficiency with a weapon, this time a tomahawk. Although outnumbered, Mani still manages to take out several of the disheveled band with explosive kicks and violent slashes. Unfortunately, the numbers game, a distraction and a silver bullet puts an end to the svelte Mani in this exchange.
This scene provides a cool, energetic respite from the overall dark, atmospheric overtones of the movie. Whilst a strange martial arts-crossover, Mark’s acting, and sleek tattooed character come across impressively -the film is one of his biggest box office successes to date.
4. “China Strike Force” (2000) – Mark Dacascos vs Ken Lo
In this Hong Kong action classic, Dacascos plays Tony Lau and teams with rapper Coolio in an attempt to create a drug smuggling ring. His heated sparring session with kicking legend, Ken Lo (who can forget his bout vs the main man Jackie Chan in “Drunken Master II”) proves to be one action-packed fight and again exhibits Dacascos’ range as a martial artist. Brutal, frenzied head and body shots, grappling and knees feature prominently with the fight finishing in spectacular fashion via a spinning back kick. Superb!
3. “Drive” (1997) – Mark Dacascos vs Hitmen in motel
In this cult action classic, “Drive”, Mark plays Toby Wong an escaped wanted hybrid assassin prototype that’s tracked down by a team of bounty hunters. Here we get a full-on action-stacked fight sequence that you’ll just love. Dacascos battles gun and taser-wielding baddies whilst protecting co-star Brittany Murphy (RIP). In addition to the classic spinning kicks, jumps and acrobatic moves, we also get treated to some hard-hitting, tough frenetic, close-quarter combat sequences. There’s also something of an homage to Jackie Chan as Dacascos launches everyday household objects at his opponents in a high speed, wild and comical smorgasbord of fu!
2. “Drive” (1997) – Mark Dacascos vs club bikers n’ baddies
Yep you’ve got it, “Drive” again features in our Top 10. Still on the run from the hitmen, this pivotal battle takes place in an empty club and starts with Dacascos playing matador against a crew of dirt bike-riding bad guys and some official-looking, sword wielding Chinese bad dudes. This fight scene exemplifies lots of Dacascos’ trademarks; all-round athleticism, speed, agility and style.
1. “Drive” (1997) – Mark Dacascos vs Masayo Kato
In at #1…and we’re sticking with “Drive”! This fight scene highlights many of Mark’s talents, in an engaging smackdown all in one fight against a superhuman ‘Advanced Model’ assassin (played by Masayo Kato). The action is intense and serious back and forth between the two. Although some obvious stand-in moments and wires were seen, it’s still great fun and using the surroundings to realistic effect adds a sense of drama and impact.
Dacascos shines with a sharp, dynamic maneuverability, real-world skill, flexibility, exciting kicks, along with a convincing screen presence. The interspersed slow-motion cuts are reminiscent of the John Woo and Jackie Chan films of the 1980’s and 90’s -and just watch out for the cool execution of that kinetically-charged, game-over power-punch to end!
So there we have it folks, we hope you enjoyed our selection of some of Mark Dacascos’ top movie fight scenes. Which are your favourites? Comment and let us know below (they may well make it into our part 2!) Watch out for more selected Top 10 Fight Scenes coming soon…