There’s certainly no denying that the hype surrounding “The Raid 2: Berandal” couldn’t be bigger! Following their initial collaboration with “Merantau”, Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais took the world by storm and set a new modern standard for martial arts movies with “The Raid: Redemption”. With the ball in their court now, they have teamed-up once again for the sequel “The Raid 2”, and once again, they appear to have outdone themselves. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, “Berandal” has drawn even more positive reception than its predecessor, even earning comparisons with “Terminator 2” for sequels that outdo the original. Some of us here at KFK even had the privilege of viewing a sneak peek of the film, and there’s no dissent to be found from the general consensus here.
However, as awesome as it will be to cheer for Rama once again in a crowded theater, one does not live by the greatness of “The Raid 2” alone! And thankfully, there’s no shortage of good stuff for martial arts fans to sink their teeth into this year. So, without further ado, here is my Martial Arts Movie roundup for the rest of 2014!
Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist
The highly anticipated follow-up to Joey Ansah and Christian Howard’s fan film “Street Fighter: Legacy” is poised to do what the first two cinematic “Street Fighter” adaptations couldn’t – get “Street Fighter” right! Gone is the campy, unintentional humour reminiscent of the 60’s “Batman” show that felled the first film, or ill-advised “dark, gritty, realistic” approach of the second. In their stead, an epic saga of Ryu and Ken’s days studying Ansatsuken under their master Gouken, and learning the darkest secrets of their martial art, with no shortage of Shoryukens, Hadoukens, and Tatsumakis. The series will debut on Machinima.com’s YouTube channel. Until then, prepare yourself for the “Street Fighter” you’ve all been waiting for!
The Wrath of Vajra
A slight cheat on this one, as it was released in China in September. But, it was recently released in Hong Kong on March 6th, and stateside on March 18th, so it fits. In any case, the film marks the first lead of Shi Yan Neng, who has also been credited in the past as Xing Yu. He first arrived on everyone’s radar back in 2004 after appearing in Stephen Chow’s “Kung Fu Hustle”, and would later show what he’s made of alongside Donnie Yen in “Flash Point” and “Ip Man” and gained further attention following his appearance in 2011’s “Shaolin”. Like his character in that film, he portrays a Shaolin Monk in “The Wrath of Vajra”, which couldn’t be more fitting, given that Yan Neng himself actually spent ten years as a Shaolin disciple! That alone sounds almost too good to be true for martial arts lovers – add Peng Zhang of “Ninja Assassin” handling the action direction, and there’s simply no excuse to sit “The Wrath of Vajra” out.
Once Upon A Time In Shanghai
2014 may be the year of the up and comers! In this case, Philip Ng and Andy On, aided by Sammo Hung and choreographed by the one and only Yuen Woo-ping! The film was released in Hong Kong back in January, and the latest take on the Shaw Brothers film “The Boxer from Shantung”, which featured Chen Kuan-tai, also appears in the remake! If you saw the original proof-of-concept trailer that was posted on YouTube, you’ve probably had this one on your radar for a while, and who could blame you? It’s probably the best trailer ever made for a martial arts flick, as you can see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3BuiQ4J71A. If after watching either of those trailers, you aren’t thinking “I want to see that yesterday!”, we can only assume that you do not have a pulse.
Gareth Evans isn’t the only man delivering Silat-fueled action! Cecily Fay does this exotic, eclectic art of combat proud in her role of Boudiccu, the titular Warrioress of the film tasked with seeking out her equal from a rival tribe in order to fulfill a centuries-old prophecy to bring down a bloodthirsty warlord in the post-apocalyptic Earth. Directed by Ross Boyask, the concept behind the film was conceived by Fay herself, and the film is great example of doing a lot on a little (budget). If you’re a fan of the show “Xena: Warrior Princess” (and really, aren’t we all?) this is right up your alley, and outside of “Merantau” and “The Raid” movies, it’s some of the best Silat-action you’re ever going to comes across. And even better, it also features Christian Howard along with Joey Ansah assisting with the fight choreography! “Warrioress” arrives on DVD in the UK on May 26th.
How do you like that – an MMA flick completely unconnected to Donnie Yen, Isaac Florentine, or Michael Jai White that looks pretty fantastic! Based on the trailer, “Tapped Out” looks like a hybrid of the coming of age story found in “The Karate Kid” with the revenge-themed quest to rise to the top seen in JCVD’s “Bloodsport” or “Kickboxer”. If you’re looking for a template, you most certainly can’t go wrong with any one of those. Canadian karate champs Cody Hackman and Nick Bateman appear in the film alongside Michael Biehn and real-life MMA fighters Krysztof Soszynski, Lyoto Machida, and Anderson Silva. If you’re not in London in April for the premiere, be sure to mark your calendar – “Tapped Out” hits video on demand services on May 27th!
Unfortunately, there’s no trailer for this one at the moment, but you’ll still be plenty hyped up for it from the list of action stars involved with it – Tony Jaa, Dolph Lundgren, and Michael Jai White. Also appearing in the film is the former Robocop Peter Weller, along with Ron Perlman of “Hellboy” and Celina Jade, whose resume includes Wu Jing’s “Legendary Assassins” and RZA’s “The Man with the Iron Fists”, along with her recurring role of Shado on the CW’s “Arrow”. If her name is still unfamiliar to you, then how about this – she’s the daughter of Roy Horan, who squared against Jackie Chan in “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” back in 1978, and who was one of Hwang Jang Lee’s leading Tae Kwon Do students! Just seeing Tony Jaa back in the game would be enough for most people, either in “Skin Trade or his holdover from last year, “Tom Yum Goong 2″. Add in everyone who will be joining him for “Skin Trade”, and it’s a lot of ice on a really big cake! (Be sure to keep an eye out for Jaa’s and Lundgren’s other collaboration “A Man Will Rise” later this year, as well!)
Rise of the Legend
Wong Fei-hung needs no introduction to most martial arts fans, and certainly not to Chinese audiences. However, for all his notoriety in Hong Kong cinema he’s been curiously absent for the past decade or so. That’s all set to change with the Wong Fei-hung reboot, “Rise of the Legend”. The film will feature Eddie Peng as the revered Confucian scholar and legendary Hung Gar master.
Taking on such a beloved character in Chinese culture is certainly a daunting task. Add into the equation that Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, and Kwan Tak-king have all portrayed Fei-hung (along with Donnie Yen having portrayed his father, no less), and it certainly makes the endeavor all the more challenging. But Peng has already proven himself ready for task. Despite being a novice to martial arts Peng has earned great acclaim for his role in 2013’s MMA drama “Unbeatable”, and also cut his teeth in the live action kung fu cartoons that were “Tai Chi Zero” and “Tai Chi Hero”.
It’ll be interesting to see if the world has the newest incarnation of Wong Fei-hung in Eddie Peng, but it’s also just great to see Fei-hung back in the spotlight of Hong Kong cinema once more!
The Turtle and the Sea
Former Shaolin Disciple Shifu Yan Lei has trained many students from the UK Shaolin Temple and passed on his vast knowledge of martial arts and Qigong through his many books and instructional DVD’s. Now, he’s ready to switch gears for his debut feature, “The Turtle and the Sea”. The story will follow Yan Lei’s character as he and a musician friend of his fight to save the life of his mother in China.
There’s no trailer or definitive release date yet, but you can still keep up to date on the film through the official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/turtleandthesea, as well as Yen Lei’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YanLei, and YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyKcY3yMOqhUURRozLHQsvw
Gareth Evans might have really started something with the modern masterpieces of “Merantau” and “The Raid”. Silat is quickly emerging as the next big cinematic martial art in much the same way that Wing Chun became all the rage in the wake of the “Ip Man” films. “Yasmine” will tell a coming of age story of a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a silat champion, but what’s really significant about it is that it will be the first major film to originate from the Southeast nation of Brunei, helmed by the nation’s first female director Siti Kamaluddin, no less. What better way to start off than with a coming of age Silat flick? It may be Brunei’s first, but hopefully won’t be their last!
He Who Dares
The description of “Die Hard’ meets ‘The Raid” alone is enticing enough for just about any action fan to give this one a look. However, it also happens to feature one of supporting players of “Warrioress” and one of the U.K.’s highest ranked martial arts practitioners, Zara Phythian. Sold!
You Can’t Hear Me You Can’t See Me
Like “The Raid” films, this one hails from Indonesia. But the focus here will be on crafting a blend of Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and other grappling arts into the film’s Hong Kong influenced action. And it’s an approach that all martial arts fans should be excited for. Donnie Yen pioneered the integration of the grappling arts into Hong Kong style-action with his MMA flicks “Sha Po Lang”(Kill Zone), “Flash Point”, and “Special ID”, and lead the way for a dynamic new element into fight choreography that continues to reinvigorate martial arts fighting on film. UCHMUCSM is poised to take that approach to the next level, and it’s one that all martial arts fans should keep their eyes peeled for!
Donnie Yen movies
As you’ll no doubt agree, Donnie Yen has become so ubiquitous in the realm of martial arts films that it’s necessary to give him his own category! You have his holdovers from 2013 that people in the English-speaking world will finally get to see:
The Monkey King
And in 2014 itself, first up will be Donnie’s two-parter, “Iceman”, a reboot of Yuen Biao’s “The Iceman Cometh”, the film is set to debut in 3D, with part one dropping on April 25th in Hong Kong while part two will be released later this year.
That’s certainly not all we’ll be seeing of Donnie this year, as you’d probably guess. He’ll also be appearing in the film “Kung Fu Killer” (formerly known as “Last of the Best”), in which he’ll portray a wrongly accused cop who gets a shot at freedom if he can track down a killer and target martial arts teachers in Hong Kong. Donnie’s proclivity for always giving five hundred percent certainly isn’t showing signs of slowing down yet, and he’s most definitely earned having a whole slot to himself!
So, there you have it – the Martial Arts films of 2014 to keep your eyes out for the most! Will this list be any longer before the year is out? Probably. There’s may be a few flying under the radar, or some that may or may not debut this year, but, as it stands, lovers of martial arts have plenty to look forward to in 2014! So, which entries on the list are you most eagerly anticipating?