As the world accelerates headlong into the exciting possibilities to be presented in 2020, we can all certainly agree on one thing – that action aficionados had one hell of a year! 2019 took us on quite an adventure alongside assassins, cybernetic warriors, revenge-minded convicts, action star ensembles, and everything in between. Meanwhile, the line between theatrical movie-going and in-home entertainment has become more blurred than ever, with the latter rising to equal, and in some cases, even surpass the best that the former has to offer!
In point of fact, it must be said that putting together a 2019 highlight reel of the best action to be found on the big and small screen has genuinely been a harder task compared to previous years. However, that’s the very definition of a good problem to have. For all who thrill to mesmerizing stunt work and finely-tuned martial-arts action, the pickings that 2019 had to offer proved so bountiful, that boiling it down to the 10 best became a relishable challenge – it was simply THAT good of a year for audiences of our persuasion.
All that said, it’s time to fasten your seat belts for a powerFUel, kinetic-frenetic trip down recent memory lane, readers – as here, in descending order are KFK’s Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Fights of 2019!
- Train Showdown – Furie
- Kabir vs Khalid – War
- Hobbs & Shaw vs Brixton Lore — Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
- Final Battle – Into the Badlands: Season Three (Part Two)
- Hallway Battle – Wu Assassins
- Bar Fight – Avengement
- Yool vs Kun — Revenger
- Bar & Underground Battle – Alita: Battle Angel
- Final Fight – Triple Threat
The driving force of “Furie” is something as pure and basic as the determination of a single mother to protect her only child. We see in the final showdown aboard a speeding train, that endless love is the very blood that runs through the veins of our heroine Hai Phoung, played by Veronica Ngo.
Once an affluent gang enforcer, Hai Phuong left that world behind for the sake of her young daughter Mai. While their newly impoverished life is clearly getting to her, she doesn’t hesitate for a moment when Mai is kidnapped by human traffickers, to unleash everything she’s got against the Vietnamese underworld.
Veronica Ngo may have stepped into 2008’s “The Rebel” as a Vovinam rookie, but you’d never have guessed it then, and you certainly wouldn’t guess it in the endless barrage of stunning action scenes presented in “Furie”. By the time the final battle with the big boss of the trafficking ring rolls around, Hai Phuong looks a right royal mess, battered black and blue with the amount of punishment she’s had to take throughout the movie. And to see her rally everything she’s got when all hope seems lost is truly an applause-worthy, crowd-pleasing moment come the movie’s final battle. Like the best of warriors, “Furie” keeps it simple, only to open the floodgates in the finale!
Siddharth Anand’s “War” holds the distinction of being the biggest Indian movie of 2019, and with the movie playing out as a souped-up cocktail of “Mission: Impossible” and “Fast and Furious”, who can argue with those results? In their respective roles of Kabir and Khalid, Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff find themselves allies one minute, enemies the next, and back again in a globetrotting cat and mouse game, the details of which would spoil a huge twist in the final act for the uninitiated.
For those who haven’t seen “War”, all you need to know is that after a high-speed car chase across the ice of the Northern Arctic, Kabir and Khalid face off in the snowy interior of a chapel under renovation, one that will only need a far more extensive refurb when all is said and done.
Tiger Shroff’s role opposite Hrithik Roshan in “War” brings with it those aforementioned major spoilers, so just remain content in the knowledge that it’s already etched in a well-deserved place on his highlight reel of incredible Kalari-driven action sequences.
Check out “War” if you haven’t yet, and until then, be sure to check out the movie’s obligatory Bollywood song and dance number above!
Back in 2001, the idea of a cybernetically-enhanced supervillain as the final boss of a “Fast & Furious” movie would’ve seemed absolutely out to lunch. Today, it’s the cherry on top of everything “Hobbs & Shaw” has to offer.
Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw may have begun as enemies in 2015’s “Furious 7”, but it’ll take their combined might to take down the ruthless Brixton Lore, played by Idris Elba, and as you can see, that’s easier said than done.
Since 2011’s “Fast Five”, the “Fast & Furious” franchise has progressively injected more and more fight-centric action amid the automotive insanity that is their trademark, and under the direction of stunt veteran and “John Wick” co-director David Leitch, the rain-drenched finale of “Hobbs & Shaw” is the best fist-to-fist showdown the series has ever produced, hands down.
Even better, Leitch clearly brought over some lessons from his work as a stuntman on Zack Snyder’s “300”, as seen in the liberal use of speed-ramping to capture the finale in all its slo-mo glory. As you would probably expect, it also holds a place of honour on KFK’s list of the Top 10 “Fast & Furious” Movie Fights, be sure to check that out alongside its “Fast & Furious” brethren!
AMC’s “Into the Badlands” definitely ranks high on the list of television series that ended way too soon, but never let it be said that it didn’t go out on a high!
As Pilgrim plots his conquest of the Badlands, Sunny, formerly known as the most-feared Clipper in the world, must band with friends, allies, and even a few enemies to put a stop to Pilgrim’s plot once and for all.
To say that the final battle of “Into the Badlands” is as astonishing a martial arts showdown as has ever been produced for the small screen would be a huge understatement. Not only do fists fly and swords slash, but the emotional stakes have never been higher, especially with M.K. siding with Pilgrim’s forces uncovering the darkest secret from Sunny’s past.
It all ends on the most bittersweet of notes – the final scenes making clear that the makers of “Into the Badlands” had at least one more season in mind before the show’s end was made official. One certainly hopes that “Into the Badlands” gets a chance for a new life elsewhere, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first cancelled series to be resurrected. However, it nevertheless remains true that season three of “Into the Badlands” took things out on one serious action-packed and emotionally exhilarating final curtain call!
Our hero Kai Jin, played byIko Uwais, is still getting the hang of his newfound abilities as the Wu Assassin, but if there’s one thing that anyone who’s followed Iko’s body of work knows, it’s that he’s right at home in a hallway smackdown!
Kai has been tasked with eliminating the band of evildoers known as the “Wu Warlords”, each channeling the power of a different element, but he must first fight off the band of henchmen who have come to take him out in his apartment building.
“Wu Assassins” is packed to the gills with amazing martial arts action, but the hallway duel of episode one really possesses a spark all its own, in that it comes in two parts. With the first half coming less than a minute into the show’s opening scene, the episode then cuts to the events leading up to it before returning at the end to give it to us in its full context. That’s also when we get the second half, with Kai discovering his ability to mask himself as one of the thousand monks, played by Mark Dacascos, as he battles off his enemies’ second wave of attacks. There’s plenty more where that came from as “Wu Assassins” progresses, but the show certainly kicked things off splendidly right out of the gate. Bring on Season Two!
To put it simply, the climax of “Avengement” is an explosion of quite literally smashing, shattering proportions.
After being wrongfully railroaded into prison, Cain Burgess, played by Scott Adkins, is only able to survive the constant onslaught from his fellow inmates by making himself into an even more barbaric wild animal of a man.
After escaping, payback is the only thing on his mind, and he spends the movie regaling his captives in a local pub of the misery they helped put him through as they await the arrival of the man behind it all. With the narrative going back and forth between Cain’s time in prison and the camp-fire story in the pub, “Avengement” was always going to live or die on the powder keg of the frenzied final smackdown that it escalates into.
When that moment finally comes, there’s no more fitting way to describe it other than saying all hell breaks loose and lets rip the bar fight to end all bar fights!
It could’ve also been a much lesser finale had Scott Adkins not pushed for the time needed to complete the final bar brawl climax of “Avengement”. Fortunately, that’s a battle in which Scott emerged victorious – check out his interview with KFK on the making of “Avengement”, where he discloses more about it!
Would you believe it if you were told that Bruce Khan was working on a herniated disc in his back and taking several pain killers when he filmed “Revenger”?
As difficult as it may seem to believe from seeing him powerfully dominate the numerous action scenes in the movie, nobody is in more pain with each battle than the man doing all the butt kicking. With facts like that on the table, any list of the best martial arts fights of 2019 would be sorely remiss not to give a lot of love to “Revenger”. Add in the fact that Bruce has the body of a twenty two year-old gym junkie despite being in his fifties, and “Revenger” would be among the best of the bunch any time it dropped.
For the finale, our mostly silent hero, Yool, speaks probably one-third of his total dialogue in “Revenger”, and it’s essentially the eulogy for the vicious crime boss Kun, who murdered his wife and daughter. It’s also the only point in the whole movie where Yool encounters any truly serious resistance to his fighting abilities, but the fact remains, he’s simply a force of nature.
Watching Bruce’s kicking sequence and immaculate martial craft in the final fight in particular, makes it simply that much more amazing to witness given the amount of agony he was going through – it doesn’t show or make him appear slow in the least. Be sure to check outKFK’s exclusive interview with Bruce Khan where he reveals all about it!
The long-gestating passion project of James Cameron, “Alita: Battle Angel” finally hit theaters in 2019 to push the envelope even further of performance capture and superhuman action.
As the newest Hunter-Warrior in Iron City, the petite and idealistic Alita, played by Rosa Salazar, isn’t taken seriously by the arrogant Zapan, played by Ed Skrein, and his fellow Hunter Warriors, leading Alita to teach them a lesson in underestimating their enemies. However, she swiftly finds herself facing off with her greatest enemy in the form of the towering Grewishka, played by Jackie Earle Haley.
The bar battle is basically two action scenes for the price of one, with Alita utterly mopping the floor with the entire bar and finding herself forced to stand her ground when Grewishka returns after their earlier encounter in the movie.
The movie’s use of performance capture brings the world of Iron City and Alita’s mastery of the cyborg martial art Panzer Kunst (German for “Armored Art”) right off the pages of Yukito Kishiro’s manga and into reality like no other manga adaptation before it. And it must truly be said that, on the verge of defeat by Grewishka’s merciless, metallic hand, Alita herself steals both the money shot of the year and the best one-liner of 2019, by far.
Make no mistake, when Alita says she does not stand by in the presence of evil, she’s not kidding. Check outKFK’s in-depth interview with the movie’s stunt coordinator Garrett Warren, where he shares the process of bringing Alita off of the pages of manga and onto the big screen!
Any one ‘duel to the death’ in the final battle of “Triple Threat” would more than earn inclusion on a list of the best martial arts battles of the year, but they’re all a slice of what is one heck of a finale.
More than any other action movie in 2019, “Triple Threat” not only embodies the concept of “non-stop action” (there’s maybe ten minutes total down time in the whole movie), it’s also acutely aware of what its audience wants that the whole movie is one long smörgåsbord of flying fists, feet, and blazing guns.
With a “Five Deadly Venoms” meets “The Expendables” ensemble at its disposal, the finale of “Triple Threat” is one that martial arts movie fanatics will be geeking out over for probably years to come, with each player on the board alternately standing their ground in a solo duel or when helping an ally in need.
In the midst of the final battle, little moments also pop up to show how much each of our heros mean business, fromIko Uwais’ ‘Jaka’ intentionally removing a ballistic advantage by his side to Tiger Chen’s ‘Long Fei’ making a fist to signal his softer approach as now barred.
Scott Adkins, meanwhile, gives a fabulously full-on performance as the uber-vicious villain Collins, even snagging the best line in the movie when his frustration at the titular Triple Threat’s interference with his mission comes to a head. Any one of the individual battles in the final showdown of “Triple Threat” would score a home run, but with all of them interweaving into one another so well, the entire finale of “Triple Threat” is one of the year’s undisputed grand slams. Check outKFK’s interview with director and stunt veteran Jesse Johnson, where he shares his own amazement at the movie’s finale!
…and in at #1 is…
John Wick vs Shinobi Assassins – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Where do we even start with ranking the best parts of “John Wick: Chapter 3”? The whole movie is two hours of the most stunningly flawless action the series has ever produced.
From horses dropkicking John’s enemies, to a battle in a Moroccan mansion to a sword duel on the backs of speeding motorcycles that pays tribute to 2017’s “The Villainess”. “Parabellum” never drops the ball even for a moment once it gets rolling, but leave it to two alumni from “The Raid” movies to steal the spotlight.
With the assassins’ hotel, The Continental, now de-consecrated, John is forced to battle his foes in what was once a guaranteed safe haven for assassins, with two of his greatest admirers, played byYayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, also giving it their all to collect the bounty on his head.
John is such a legend in the assassin world that his two opponents forego two clear windows to finish him, purely for the sake of extending their admiration for who they’re facing. This only serves to elevate their showdown in the context of the assassins’ clandestine world.
It’s great fun to see Yayan and Cecep working in concert here after their adversarial battle in “The Raid 2”, and they’re simply astounding as a villainous duo. Even better still, with “John Wick: Chapter 4” hitting theaters in 2021, “Parabellum” leaves open the possibility that we may see them again.
To consummate the glorious high-voltage symphony that was the most electrifying action movie of last summer, John Wick’s battle against his two Shinobi assassin foes takes the crown of 2019’s Best Martial Arts Movie Fight!