Hwang Jang Lee is a legend, period. In martial arts films he’s probably best known for his role as the super-villain in two well-known Jackie Chan movies, “Drunken Master” and “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and renowned for his powerful, fast and devastating kicks. In his films you’ll see some of the most amazing, dazzling, high-energy kicking and fighting sequences ever captured on film. Here we’ll review his life and career and then get into some of his most memorable fights.
Korean at birth, Hwang Jang Lee was actually born Hwang Jeong-Ri in Japan in 1944. In 1945 Hwang and his parents returned to Korea. At the age of fourteen, against his parents’ will, Hwang started training in Taekwondo. In a video interview with Kung Fu Kingdom, Hwang mentions a story during his time in the army during the South Vietnamese war, where he killed a soldier in self-defence with one of his thunderous kicks. Witnesses confirmed he acted in self-defence and so no charges were brought against him.
Hwang’s movie debut was in a low budget Korean film called “Korean Connection” in 1974 which kicked off Hwang’s impressive film career (a few years before he would star alongside Jackie Chan). In 1975, Ng See-Yuen, a former executive of Shaw Brothers had just created a new company called Seasonal Film Corporation. Thanks to Hwang’s impressive kicking skills, he was cast as the notorious white-haired villain ‘Silver Fox’ in Seasonal’s first film, “Secret Rivals”. The film launched Hwang’s career, and his character became and remained one of Hong Kong’s most popular movie villains, with the ‘Silver Fox’ nickname sticking with him from then on.
In 1978, Ng See-Yuen recruited Hwang to play an Eagle Claw Master (‘Sheng Kuan’) who takes on Jackie Chan in “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”. The film was a breakout hit, launching Jackie Chan to stardom. It was quickly followed up with an even bigger hit, the genre-classic “Drunken Master” where Hwang played ‘Thunderleg’.
In 1980, Hwang played the hero for a change and made his directorial debut with “Hitman in the Hand of Buddha” and in 1982, Hwang created an instructional tape titled “The Art of High Impact Kicking”, demonstrating various Taekwondo kicks and training techniques.
During the 1980s, Hwang began appearing in more contemporary roles, in 1987, Hwang made his English-language debut in “No Retreat, No Surrender 2: Raging Thunder”.
Since retiring from films, Hwang has owned a golf-tee manufacturing company, a hotel and a bodyguarding service. In January 2003, Hwang received his 9th Dan black belt in Taekwondo. Additionally, he also currently holds a 9th Dan from the World Tang Soo Do General Federation Moo Duk Kwan. Hwang still actively teaches martial arts and is currently an instructor at the World Tang Soo Do General Federation.
Having worked on over 60 films, Hwang has given the world a rich pool of amazing action scenes to choose from. So, without further ado, here are our Top 10 Hwang Jang Lee Movie Fight Scenes (in descending order, ie. from best to very best)…
- Game of Death II (1981) – vs Bruce Lee/Tong Lung
- No Retreat, No Surrender 2 (1987) – vs Cynthia Rothrock
- Secret Rivals 2 (1977) – vs John Liu and Tino Wong
- Hitman in the Hand of Buddha (1981) – vs Eddy Ko
- The Invincible Armour (1977) – vs Tino Wong
- Snuff Bottle Connection (1977) – vs John Liu
- Secret Rivals (1976) – vs John Liu and Tao Wong
- Dance of the Drunk Mantis (1979) – vs Yuen Siu-tien
- Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) – vs Jackie Chan
Bruce Lee Fans will remember Hwang as Bruce Lee’s evil nemesis in “Game of Death 2”. Unfortunately Bruce Lee had died some years before the production of “Game of Death 2”, so most of his scenes are taken from his older films. The extremely rare South Korean official version of the film uses more footage from Hwang and Tong Lung who also doubles for Bruce Lee in the film. Their epic battle features an amazing blend of Jeet Kune Do and Taekwondo skills as well as an impressive display of the stick, which also transforms into a sword.
This film features a memorable fight scene between Hwang and fellow Tang Soo Do Master, Cynthia Rothrock. Hwang delivers and receives some of the toughest looking kicks on camera; the highlight is a 360 flying spinning back kick from Cynthia Rothrock onto Hwang’s chest as the finishing move.
This is a worthy sequel and its action places a greater emphasis on the use of weapons. Combined with Hwang’s amazing talent and Yuen Woo-ping’s choreography, the final 3-man epic battle involving a set of spinning ring blades with built in brass knuckles as a weapon is one of the dizzying highlights of this Kung Fu classic.
For “Hitman in the Hand of Buddha”, Hwang Jang Lee not only starred as the hero but was also producer and director. Working alongside action directors Corey Yuen and Mang Hoi, Hwang was able to showcase more weapon skills alongside his amazing kicking repertoire. The epic final showdown between Hwang and Eddy Ko is nothing less than breathtaking. Hwang performs his trademark flying triple sidekick amongst other fancy moves that will undoubtedly leave you astonished, yep, even some 37 years on!
Hwang energetically demonstrates his martial arts versatility by showcasing his awesome ‘Eagle’s Claw’ as well as his kicking prowess in this impressively choreographed fight sequence. The added bonus is that another superkicker John Liu teams up with Tino Wong in the final fight to produce an unforgettable 3-man showdown.
The concluding battle between Hwang and fellow superkicker John Liu, features these two Masters of their craft engaging in another blistering duel. This time, Hwang combines his diverse kicking talents with the aid of an iron fan as a weapon to fight against John Liu’s barrage of kinetic kicks.
This is the film that simultaneously launched the careers of two of Hong Kong’s most notorious masters of leg combat – John Liu and Hwang Jang Lee, and at the same time, shot their fellow action star Tao Wong into the spotlight. The action features a seamless blend of traditional Kung Fu with Taekwondo. Hwang performs his trademark powerful and blazingly fast kicks as well as making some impressive use of White Crane-style kung-fu throughout the film.
This is a Hong Kong Kung Fu comedy directed by Yuen Woo-ping (real life son of Yuen Siu-tien). This was Yuen Siu-tien’s final film appearance before his unfortunate death due to a heart attack. Their epic fight is a classic cocktail of traditional kung fu mixed with acrobatics, incredible timing and innovation. They duel at the dinner table with wooden stools, cups and bottles, not to mention bringing on some classic drunken-style Kung Fu into the mix.
Yuen Woo-ping’s inventive choreography proved to be a superior showcase for the skills of both stars. During the climactic battle, not only does Hwang perform one of his trademark triple kicks, but he follows this up with an almighty devastating jumping roundhouse kick which in reality accidentally knocked out one of Jackie Chan’s front teeth. If you look carefully in some scenes, you can see the gap in Jackie’s mouth. Hwang also confirms that this was due to the kick being mistimed in our interview.
…and in at #1 is…
Drunken Master (1978) – vs Jackie Chan
Following on from the success of “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”, Hwang teamed up once again with Jackie Chan to film some of the most mesmerising fight scenes ever. Yuen Woo-ping once again excels himself and ups the ante with his sublime choreography. In the concluding battle, Hwang this time accidentally knocked Jackie Chan unconscious as he performed his flying twin side kick onto Chan’s throat instead of onto his chest, ouch!! as if getting teeth knocked out wasn’t enough!
So there we have it folks, 10 incredible fight scenes from the Silver Fox, Thunderleg himself, Master Hwang Jang Lee. Do you remember “Hellz Wind Staff”, “Heroes of Shaolin”, “Buddha Assassinator” and “Ninja in the Dragon’s Den”? We’ll cover those in a future article. SO…which of his fights got you going and which of his kicks did you try most to imitate? Let us know below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (While you’re here, why not check out our other Top 10’s for more superkickin’ goodness!)