2017 had a ton of awesome movies and shows with loads of outstanding action! Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to highlight the amazing big screen smackdowns 2017 had to offer. So, without further ado here are KFK’s Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Fights of 2017! (in descending order)
- Harry and Eggsy vs Whiskey – “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”
The jaw-dropping free-for-all during a church service of the first “Kingsman” gets its match in the final fight of the sequel. A newly revived Harry and his Kingsman apprentice Eggsy stand their ground against Agent Whiskey, their duplicitous former ally from the American spy organization, Statesman. The fun of the “Kingsman” franchise lies in its cheerful disregard for anything resembling reality and its crazily cartoonish action sequences, and you get plenty of that here with a villain who bears what can only be described as a “taser-lasso” as his weapon of choice. As with the first film, Jackie Chan stunt team vet Brad Allan lends his services to serve up a wickedly awesome finale to “The Golden Circle” complete with a country and western cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” tying everything together!
- Karan’s Raid – “Commando 2: The Black Money Trail”
Vidyut Jammwal solidifies himself as Bollywood’s answer to Cyril Rafaelli in the opening sequence of “Commando 2: The Black Money Trail”. The film doesn’t waste a moment jumping, quite literally into the action with our hero’s one-man raid of a villainous stronghold in Taiwan, presenting the kind of action movie bonanza you’d get if “The Raid” had a baby with “District B13”. The art of Kalaripayattu couldn’t ask for a better cinematic ambassador than Vidyut Jammwal, who leaps into action with same confidence and charisma that he brought to the first “Commando”. Where so many martial arts films strive to finish up with an action sequence this strong, “Commando 2” delivers the goods right out of the gate.
- The Stairwell Fight – “Atomic Blonde”
After “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Atomic Blonde”, Charlize Theron may well have quite the future indeed as a big-screen kicker of butts. Under the direction of “John Wick” co-director David Leitch, the showdown on the stairwell of “Atomic Blonde” leaves the audience nearly as out of breath as Lorraine Broughton herself, as our heroine battles her way to the ground level almost like a reverse “Game of Death”. And a game of death this is indeed, as every bloodied and broken foe she encounters on her descent will readily agree. The whole affair even caps off with Daniel Bernhardt of “John Wick” and “Bloodsport II” showing up as the final boss, of sorts. It may be cliche to say that any one set piece single-handedly makes a movie worth its admission price, but the centerpiece of “Atomic Blonde” truly does!
- No Man’s Land – “Wonder Woman”
Before 2017, superheroines who went solo on the big screen had what might charitably be called a spotty track record, thanks to “Supergirl”, “Elektra”, and the bottomless pit of squalor that is “Catwoman”. However, you can actually pinpoint the exact moment when that curse was finally lifted, and it comes in the breathtaking No Man’s Land battle of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman”. A century before stealing the show in “Batman v Superman”, Princess Diana fearlessly marches across the battle-ravaged corner of Europe known as No Man’s Land, deflecting everything the enemy could throw at her and would all but end World War One single handedly. Like the rest of the DCEU, “Wonder Woman” knows how to use CGI and wire-fu in its action sequences without sacrificing the crucial human element that makes its heroes great. It wholeheartedly embraces the “Blade II Method” of allowing Gal Gadot and the stunt people onscreen to execute the action up to what is humanly possible. The CGI and wire-fu only take over for anything beyond that – ditto for the resurrection of Superman in “Justice League”, which gives way to quite the battle of superpowered titans itself. With superhuman fight sequences like this, its no wonder that “Wonder Woman” was the film to finally break the curse of female-led superhero adventures – the world is much better for it!
- Bruce Lee vs Wong Jack-man – “Birth of the Dragon”
The fight that gave birth to the legend gets its second big screen recreation in “Birth of the Dragon”, and wowzers, is it something! Phillip Ng and Xia Yu are flawlessly cast as Bruce Lee and Wong Jack-man, and deliver a terrific big screen send up of the real-life duel of kung fu masters that catalysed Bruce Lee’s transformation into the legend we remember him as today. Sure, Wong Jack Man wasn’t a Shaolin disciple, but like the film as a whole, the fight is meant to be an allegory of Bruce’s metamorphosis, with Wong himself being the literal embodiment of the enlightenment Bruce gained from his realization of the limitations he’d previously placed upon himself as a martial artist and a human being. And how meta the film is indeed, to cap off the duel’s conclusion with a spectator asking “Who won?”
- John Wick vs Cassian – “John Wick: Chapter Two”
It isn’t often that the world’s most feared assassin encounters an opponent who can hold his own, but John Wick finds exactly that in the form of his fellow assassin, Cassian. Keanu Reeves and Common give everything they’ve got for the film’s most pulse-pounding match-up, which they follow up later in their in the film with a rematch that’s not too shabby itself. With the sheer number of times they drop each other like a sack of potatoes onto the cobblestones of Rome, Common and Mr. Reeves doubtlessly went home black and blue at the end of every day, and Common really deserves kudos for how much he throws himself, quite literally, up against our hero. Given that Cassian is one of the very worthy opponents John Wick has had to tangle with, the news that he’ll be back for the upcoming “John Wick: Chapter Three” is very welcome news, indeed!
- The Temple Battle – “Beyond Skyline”
Like 2001’s “Brotherhood of the Wolf”, director Liam O’Donnell creates a molotov cocktail of genre-blending in “Beyond Skyline”. The sequel to 2010’s “Skyline”, the film merges an alien invasion on the scale of “Independence Day” with the Silat-driven action of The Raid films, along with bringing in two of the franchise’s main stars. The final stand for the fate of mankind is truly something you’ve never seen before – a small band of blade-wielding humans in a martial arts smackdown with 8-foot tall alien soldiers in an ancient Laotian temple. Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian are at the top of their game, and seeing them teamed up with Frank Grillo just makes me wonder what he’s preparing to bring to the Hollywood remake of “The Raid” with that much more vigor. And yeah, on the infinitesimal chance that it needs to be actually said, Iko’s “Power Claw”, as it was dubbed by the cast and crew of the film, is REALLY awesome!
- The Hallway Fight – “The Defenders”
If it’s a Marvel Netflix series, you know it’s gotta have a hallway fight, and that its gonna be the show’s crowning action achievement and “The Defenders” is no exception! After each making their respective MCU debut in their own solo series on Netflix, “The Defenders” brings Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist together in a way that feels both organic and spontaneous. They each have their own vendetta to settle at Rand Enterprises, leading to the four of them crossing paths and joining forces unintentionally but in a way that lays the groundwork for their unbreakable bond. The audience sees the payoff of each solo series getting bigger and bigger right before their very eyes with Danny first taking on The Hand single handedly before Luke arrives to lend a helping hand and finally Matt and Jessica leaping into the action. Marvel and Netflix hyped up “The Defenders” as a “street-level Avengers”, and by the time the hallway brawl had wrapped, it was safe to say that promise had been fu-filled!
- Sunny and Bajie vs The Abbots – “Into the Badlands”: Season Two
The second season of “Into the Badlands”, AMC’s post-apocalyptic re-telling of “Journey to the West” cemented itself as the best action-driven series currently occupying the small screen. It continued to lead the way in merging the jaw-dropping power of “Ong Bak” with the wire-fu of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – which, of course, makes pinning down the season’s single greatest battle almost an exercise in futility. However, the final fight of the season’s sixth episode, “Leopard Stalks in the Snow”, edges out the competition due to the welcome return of MMA champ Cung Le, and just how appropriately titled this episode proves to be. This martial arts bonanza earns a few extra points for just how far it pushes the boundaries of unapologetic bloodshed for a TV series (AMC previously gave the world “The Walking Dead”, lest we forget) and for Bajie scoring the best line of dialog on the show to date!
…and in at #1 is…
Ishmael vs Lee – “Headshot”
No movie in 2017, martial arts or otherwise, more definitely earned its R-rating than did “Headshot”, a veritable ballet of bloodshed culminating in a wrenching final confrontation between our hero Ishmael and his “father” Lee. Under the direction of The Mo Brothers, this final Silat smackdown, and really the film as a whole, is a brutal emotional battle that pushes the fight-or-flight response of our two combatants to its absolute zenith, leaving you wincing with every hit. Our hero and villain unleash an almost surreal and certainly visceral level of punishment upon each other, with the Silat mastery of Iko Uwais and Sunny Pang masterfully captured by The Mo Brothers. They take their place alongside the likes of Paul Verhoeven and Gareth Evans in the Hall of Fame of filmmakers who can take absolutely gut-wrenching violence and turn it into something captivating, slick…even beautiful!
So there we have it folks, KFK’s list of some of the best martial arts movie fights of 2017! Which ones thrilled or did you find particularly memorable last year? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Feel free to check out these Top 10 Martial Arts Movies of 2017 and Top 15 Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies of 2018 too!