For martial arts aficionados, there’s most definitely a ton of good stuff to look forward to in 2016! Whether it’s a follow-up to a beloved classic sixteen years after the fact, a superhero smackdown with the most finely-tuned action money can buy, or the long awaited return of The Most Complete Fighter in the World, there’s no doubt that lovers of martial arts cinema are going to have big smiles on their faces by the time 2017 rolls around.
With so many awesome martial arts films on the way this year, the only hard part is putting together a list of the fifteen flicks that are proving to be the hardest to wait for. Fortunately, at KFK, we’ve risen to the challenge and done just that, so fasten your seatbelts readers! Here is our list of the 15 Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies of 2016!
15) Lady Bloodfight
The premise in a nutshell – “Bloodsport” with women. Stunt woman Amy Johnston, who served as Scarlett Johansson’s double in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, portrays Jane, a young woman who steps into the legendary underground martial arts tournament known as the Kumite. Chris Nahon of “Kiss of the Dragon” fame steps into the director’s chair, while Xiong Xin Xin handles the role of fight choreographer. Sounds like fun! Check out our interview with Amy here where she gives a peek behind the scenes of the film.
14) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
It’s been sixteen years, but the long-awaited follow-up to Ang Lee’s acclaimed wuxia classic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is coming soon with the addition of Donnie Yen no less! Michelle Yeoh is back in the role of Yu Shu Lien, while the legendary Yuen Woo-ping steps into the director’s chair and screenwriter John Fusco of “The Forbidden Kingdom” and “Marco Polo” fame adapts the film from Du Lu Wang’s novel “Iron Knight Silver Vase”. To top it all off, Jason Scott Lee, whom you may remember as the title character in 1993’s “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”, steps into the film to square off with Ip Man – er, I mean, Donnie Yen! But really, what’s the difference?
13) John Wick 2
Yeah, we’re thinking he’s back! Keanu Reeves prepares to pick up his side arms and break out the judo throws once again in the second installment of 87 Eleven’s thrilling new action franchise. The first film raised the bar on blending martial arts with gun play into a new cinematic way of combat we like to call “Gun Fu Jitsu” or GFJ. Rumors have been swirling around the internet for some time that we’ll get to see a rematch between Keanu and Tiger Chen of “Man of Tai Chi” in John Wick’s second adventure. And whilst we’re not saying that the phenomenal Gary Daniels is in the film, we’re also not saying he’s NOT in it either – stay tuned!
Of course, a list of Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies just wouldn’t be complete without a Jackie Chan movie! This time, he puts the “Rush Hour”/”Shanghai Noon” buddy movie gimmick to work in the Far East by teaming up with comedian Johnny Knoxville in a hijink-filled caper. Renny Harlin of “Cliffhanger”, “Die Hard 2” and “Deep Blue Sea” fame directs the film, and going by the trailer, he, Jackie, and Knoxville are all at the top of their game!
11) Kickboxer: Vengeance
One of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s most beloved early flicks gets the reboot treatment in “Kickboxer: Vengeance”, with the original leading man along for the ride, no less! This time, Jean-Claude steps into the mentor role while talented martial artist/stuntman/actor Alain Moussi assumes the role of Kurt Sloane. MMA legends Gina Carano and Georges St-Pierre are both aboard, along with Dave Bautista as the villainous Tong Po and the late Darren Shahlavi (RIP) as Kurt’s brother, Eric. A sequel, “Kickboxer: Retaliation” is already in the works before the full trailer has even been released – with a show of confidence like that, it can’t hurt to get excited for this one!
10) Birth of a Dragon
It’s perhaps the most legendary and controversial story in the life of Bruce Lee – his duel with Wong Jack Man in 1964. The fight provided the seed for Bruce’s development of Jeet Kune Do, and remains quite possibly the most renowned match-up between martial arts teachers in the 20th century. Xia Yu portrays Master Wong, while Philip Ng will step into the role of the titular Dragon – how fitting, given that he’s a student of one of Bruce’s own mentors, none other than Wing Chun master, Wong Shun Leung!
9) Never Back Down 3
Michael Jai White’s back in the director’s chair and back in the cage as MMA veteran Case Walker in “Never Back Down 3”, and he’s not alone. Along for the newest Beatdown are Stephen “The Fight Professor” Quadros, acclaimed fight choreographer Larnell Stovall, the massive ex-WWE wrestler Nathan Jones, Jeeja Yanin, real-life UFC fighter Josh Barnett, and even a quick cameo from Tony Jaa. What else can you ask for from The Beatdown?
“The Raid 3” may still be a little way off, but as the wait continues, Iko Uwais isn’t slowing down in the least. For “Headshot”, you may call him Ishmael, but his menace is decidedly not of the aquatic variety. Under the direction of Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, our hero washes ashore stricken with amnesia, and as tends to be the case in this scenario, his past isn’t far from catching up to him. Iko isn’t the only alumni of “The Raid” here; he’ll again be joined by Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle, and hopefully they’ve brought an aluminum bat and a couple of claw hammers with them!
7) Mortal Kombat X: Generations
The status of the acclaimed web-series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” has been up in the air for some time now, a particularly excruciating predicament for MK fans given the cliffhanger ending of season two. Thankfully, the story is set to continue with “Mortal Kombat: Generations”, and the character roster indicates that while it may not be a direct continuation of “Legacy”, it does take much of its cue from the latest installment of the games “Mortal Kombat X”, with such newly introduced characters as Kung Jin, Cassie Cage, and Erron Black stepping into the tournament, and combined with such cast additions such as Roger Yuan and Ray Park, “Generations” is a must for martial arts fans!
6) Daredevil – Season Two
One of the best chapters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which for the record, has no shortage of awesome chapters) was the opening salvo of their Netflix shows, the first season of “Daredevil”. It brought boatloads of ninja action into the mix, which was one of the few areas where MCU had been previously lacking. As they continue to lay the groundwork for their upcoming Avengers-style team on Netflix, The Defenders, The Man Without Fear has more work to do. And if you thought that hallway fight in season one was nuts, Charlie Cox says season two has one that is “like that scene on crack”!
5) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
2016 will see a smorgasbord of superhero flicks making landfall and make no mistake, you’d be nuts not to be breathlessly anticipating every one of them! However, in terms of anticipation, nothing else even comes close to the first ever cinematic meeting of The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, along with the added presence of Wonder Woman in her big-screen debut as well.
If this list were specifically covering superhero movies, “Batman v Superman” would most definitely take the number one slot, but it also ranks pretty highly on a list of anticipated martial arts films too. Fight choreographer Guillermo Grispo boasts that this new take on Batman will have the most impressive fighting skills audiences have ever seen him display and the fact that Scott Adkins himself was given an audition should tell you just how seriously they’re taking the martial arts aspect of this superhero smackdown!
4) Zambo Dende
Speaking of superheroes, their history goes back further in history than you’d think. As far as 16th century Colombia in fact, when the mighty warrior Zambo Dende used amazing martial arts skills to fight for the freedom of oppressed slaves. That’s the legend that 7Glab’s comic book series relates to readers and it’ll soon make the leap to live action with the uber-talented Chilean martial artist, Marko Zaror stepping into the title role. Marko’s powerful airborne fighting skills were tailor-made for a superhero, and this upcoming film will reportedly serve as the pilot for a Zambo Dende series!
3) The Bodyguard
Here’s one that hasn’t quite started the process of building up hype yet, but holy smokes, this trailer is just intense! Filmmaker Yue Song makes his second directorial outing after 2012’s “King of the Streets”, as well as portraying our hero Wu-Lin. Former Shaolin disciple turned action star Shi Yan Neng, climbs aboard to flex his ever reliable villainous muscles. Definitely something to keep on your radar!
2) Street Fighter: Resurrection
“Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” blew all expectations out of the water, adapting a video game with a pretty shoddy live-action history and crafting it into something that felt almost like a Kurosawa movie. We’ll have to wait a little longer than expected for the highly anticipated follow-up, “Street Fighter: World Warrior”, but that’s only because “Street Fighter: Resurrection” is coming first, serving as both the next chapter in the series and a tie-in to the upcoming release of the newest game in the franchise, “Street Fighter V”. That’s Alain Moussi of “Kickboxer: Vengeance” in the trailer as Charlie Nash, and right there, you have proof positive that there’s no anime or video game character that Joey Ansah can’t properly translate to a live-action setting!
And the number one Most Anticipated Martial Arts Film of 2016 is….
1) Boyka: Undisputed
Of course you knew this was coming – it’s been six years since we last saw the Most Complete Fighter in the World, but at last Boyka’s back! He’s out of prison and out of Mother Russia, a free man climbing the ladder of the MMA world until he inadvertently kills an opponent in the ring. Of course, Boyka’s code of honour won’t allow him to sit by when he learns the vanquished fighter’s wife is in trouble, and he agrees to step into a high stakes MMA tournament to save her from the Russian mob. Isaac Florentine hands the director’s reins to Todor Chapkanov this time, and it most certainly looks like his choice of a successor was well made. Check out KFK’s recent interview with Scott Adkins where he talks a bit about the film, and as we wait eagerly for the film’s release later this year the only thing left to do is let the chanting begin…
BOY-KA! BOY-KA! BOY-KA!