As the world accelerates faster into 2020, we’ve now got about ten months of adventure and possibility awaiting us. Of course, what lies behind us in 2019 may vary from person to person, but for action lovers, it was a twelve-month long buffet table of mayhem. Naturally, that’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from taking even a cursory skim-through of KFK’s countdown of the Top 10 Martial Arts Movies of 2019. But that was then, this is now so let’s zoom forward to what 2020 has in store. And frankly folks, it’s safe to say that 2020 has a LOT to offer action aficionados!
From animated adaptations of famed fighting games and the stunning rise of action on the small screen, to the year’s decidedly female-driven superhero flicks and the sharpest combat that either Hong Kong or Bollywood has to offer, fans of martial arts action have quite a few spaces to vividly etch in on this collective calendar of ours.
Of course, the more fickle nature of release dates within our beloved genre in comparison with others does usually result in a few holdovers from the previous year carrying over into the next, and 2020 is no exception This time around, the holdovers from 2019 include: “Enter the Fat Dragon”, “The Invincible Dragon”, “Project X-Traction”, “Seized”, and “The King’s Man”.
Add those into the mix of what’s set up for this year, and it’s safe to say that 2020 is preparing to take action fanatics on one hell of an incredibly blistering, and electrifying romp. So buckle up readers – here (in descending order with trailers included where available) are KFK’s Top 15 Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies of 2020!
- Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge
- The Outlaw Johnny Black
- The Debt Collector 2
- The Kung Fu Master
- Baaghi 3
- Warrior – Season 2
- Snake Eyes
- Wonder Woman 1984
- Raging Fire
- F9: The Fast Saga
- Kung Fury II: The Movie
- Birds of Prey
bviously, we can’t overlook “Vanguard”, the next adventure of the one and only Jackie Chan, can we? The latest collaboration of Jackie and director Stanley Tong, “Vanguard” is clearly positioning itself as the kind of globe trotting, stunt-filled caper that made Jackie a household name even before he fully broke out in the West.
The pedigree of stunt work seen in the trailer would be eye-popping all on its own, but it’s even more impressive when one considers the stage of Jackie’s life and career that “Vanguard” is arriving at.
Between the countless injuries Jackie has endured throughout his career, and the fact that he’ll be 66 years-old in April, there’s an added level of death-defiance at work in “Vanguard” – to say nothing of the fact that Jackie came close to drowning while filming a water-based stunt.
Still, the trailer also goes just a little meta when Jackie elects to take the stairs during a chase rather than leaping from a ledge. There’s nothing else to say about “Vanguard” other than its Jackie doing what Jackie does best, and we’re all just along for the ride.
The interdimensional tournament for the fate of the realms is set to return to theaters once more with 2021’s highly anticipated reboot “Mortal Kombat”. However, addicts of one of the greatest fighting games ever created will have plenty to sate them over until then with the animated movie “Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge”.
Fans of the franchise will note the numerous similarities between the movie being showcased in the trailer and the 2011 reboot game “Mortal Kombat” (colloquially known as “MK 9”), to the point that “Scorpion’s Revenge” seemingly appears a direct adaptation of it. Naturally, that means viewers can expect an ample blend of gorgeous animation with hard-hitting martial arts action.
Without a doubt, “Scorpion’s Revenge” is the animated martial arts flick to beat in 2020, and will surely serve as a splendid primer for next year’s “Mortal Kombat” reboot – although one certainly hopes the as-yet unreleased third season of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” also finally sees the light of day before then (check out KFK’s interview with Garrett Warren to find out more about it)!
2009’s “Black Dynamite” was as explosive a send-up of the Blaxploitation genre as its namesake, launching an animated series on Adult Swim and a catchphrase that never gets old. While “Black Dynamite” was a blast from the 70’s past, audiences will take a trip even further back into the history books with the next chapter in the “Black Dynamite” universe with the Blaxploitation Western, “The Outlaw Johnny Black”.
The genre-hybridity of that premise, plus the proof-of-concept trailer above, is sure to get the many raving fans of the original ready for round two, but it’s still a bit of a mystery as to how exactly “The Outlaw Johnny Black” ties in with “Black Dynamite”. However, there is still a bit to go on – Michael Jai White previously described the relationship between the two as akin to “Monty Python”, which can only mean that there’s plenty of comedy on the cards. Check out KFK’s interview with Michael Jai White where he talks about “The Outlaw Johnny Black”, and in the meantime, keep a space or two open for it in your diary!
Considering that our two antiheroes of “The Debt Collector”, French and Sue, both die by the end of the movie, the idea of there being a sequel at all is certainly a bit of a curveball. Nevertheless, “Debt Collectors” reunites the talents of Jesse Johnson, Scott Adkins, and Louis Mandylor for what promises to be another wild rodeo.
“The Debt Collector” followed two down-on-their-luck guys just trying to get by, with Scott Adkins’ French joining forces with Louis Mandylor’s Sue for a day of roughing-up uncooperative defaulters indebted to the local loan shark.
Like all great black comedies, “The Debt Collector” ended on such a note as to leave the viewer stunned to have just had the rug pulled out from under them, which only adds to the head-scratching “how?” of “Debt Collectors” far more than the “why?” Not much is known about it at the moment, and that’s doubtlessly the way the makers of “Debt Collectors” like it, so check out KFK’s interview with Jesse Johnson on the making of the first movie until the trailer drops!
The story of Hua Mulan is a legend in China, and the English-speaking world came to know a decidedly more fantastical version of it with the 1998 animated movie “Mulan”. These days, Disney is giving all of their animated classics the live-action treatment, with “Mulan” being the next one up to bat next month.
Liu Yifei steps into the role of our titular heroine, though one assumes that the live-action parameters the film is working with will require her to do a bit more than simply put her hair in a bun to pass as the opposite gender.
“Mulan” also represents a true gathering of martial arts legends, with Jet Li returning to the big screen as the Emperor while Donnie Yen tackles the role of military commander Tung, with Jason Scott Lee on deck as the villainous Hun commander, Bori Khan.
“Mulan” is certainly game to be the most epic live-action update of a Disney animated hit, and though it will reportedly not feature any of the songs seen in the original, we can still keep our fingers crossed for everybody’s favorite over the end credits, right?
It’s always courteous of both a title and a trailer to be extremely upfront and unambiguous about what it’s selling, isn’t it? A slight cheat, given that the movie debuted in India in late January, but for audiences in the Western world, we’re still awaiting the opportunity to see “The Kung Fu Master”.
Not a huge amount to go on from the trailer, other than to say that the movie both lives up to and pluralizes its title. And if we’re being honest, quality-wise, Bollywood is turning up the heat and is behind some pretty impressive large-scale action movies as exemplified by last year’s “War” and the ascendancy to Bollywood’s A-list of legit martial artists like Tiger Shroff and Vidyut Jammwal. Great trailer, straightforward title, naught else to say really, except bring on “The Kung Fu Master”!
Speak of the devil, Tiger Shroff has risen right to the top of the Bollywood hill in the last few years. While last year’s “War” saw him tackle a radically different screen persona than what audiences have seen before, his rise can be attributed to his solid performances in the “Baaghi” movies.
What makes them particularly interesting is how independently they exist from one another. 2016’s “Baaghi” was essentially “The Karate Kid” meets “The Raid“, while 2018’s “Baaghi 2” was a Bollywood “Rambo” that dropped well in advance of the in-development official Bollywood “Rambo” (which, incidentally, Tiger is also attached to).
The poster is certainly game to set expectations high too with our hero in silhouette against the sunset with the caption, “He will return”. It assuredly sounds like the Kalari-driven action of its two predecessors is about to kick into high gear for “Baaghi 3”, and all we can say is bring it on!
Good things do indeed come to those who wait, as evidenced by season one of Cinemax’s “Warrior”. Based on a concept developed by Bruce Lee himself prior to his untimely passing, “Warrior” finally hit television screens last year after a purgatory of some 46 long years. It didn’t take long for season two to get greenlit, so audiences can look forward to the continued battles of our hero Ah Sahm, played by Andrew Koji, in 1878 San Francisco.
It goes without saying that Ah Sahm has a score to settle with Li Yong, played by Joe Taslim, and that is sure to be one of the major highlights of season two, among such other attributes as Dustin Nguyen of “The Rebel” graduating to series regular.
Release details are pending, but as the long, long, long road to season one of “Warrior” demonstrates, the wait will surely be worth it. As we wait for those to drop, be sure to also check out KFK’s exclusive interview with Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee on how “Warrior” was finally realized!
Moviegoers first learned about the mysterious ninja commando known only as ‘Snake Eyes’ in 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, with his skills in Ninjutsu being brought to life by the great Ray Park (along with Leo Howard as the young version of the character).
Ray would reprise the role for the 2013 sequel “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”. However, for the upcoming origin movie “Snake Eyes”, our hero’s sword falls into the hands of “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding. With Mr. Golding describing the movie’s approach to its Ninja-driven action in a recent interview with MTV News, fans can expect “Snake Eyes” to take a more grounded, Samurai-esque approach to the characters and the action.
He’ll also be joined by Andrew Koji of Cinemax’s “Warrior” as Snake Eyes’ sworn enemy, Storm Shadow, along with modern Silat legend Iko Uwais as the duo’s Hard Master. Behind every great warrior lies a great origin, and come this fall, “Snake Eyes” will be one such origin story that martial arts movie junkies will not want to let slip into the shadows!
Unlike most superheroes, Diana of Themyscira’s life spans eons of human history, which tends to happen when you began life as a clay sculpture that was brought into human form by Zeus himself. Now in her civilian identity of Diana Prince, the Amazonian warrior princess still mourns the loss of her one true love, Steve Trevor in World War One, as seen in 2017’s “Wonder Woman”.
However, that all changes when Steve inexplicably appears in the year 1984, with Diana left to wonder (no pun intended) at the specifics of his miraculous re-emergence while not having aged a day. Not much else is known about “Wonder Woman 1984” at the moment, other than the fact that it will also introduce the classic DC villains Maxwell Lord and Cheetah, the latter being Wonder Woman’s greatest enemy.
Nevertheless, Diana’s warrior abilities have never been in doubt, and certainly not with Gal Gadot in the role. Audiences are sure to see more of the thunder she brought to World War One when “Wonder Woman 1984” hits theaters this June!
Prior to the release of last year’s “Ip Man 4: The Finale”, Donnie Yen announced that the movie would mark his official retirement from kung fu films. It still isn’t entirely clear if this is in the Jet Li-sense of calling it quits on period epics and the like, or a more definitive retirement per se. Regardless, there’s still a few more action-driven vehicles with Donnie at the center that are set to drop, one of them being “Raging Fire”.
The movie will see Donnie step into the shoes of a Hong Kong cop once more, something he’s excelled at previously with the likes of “In the Line of Duty IV”, “Sha Po Lang” / aka “Kill Zone”, and “Flash Point”. The full scope of what that will entail will only become clear once the trailer drops, but “Raging Fire” will nevertheless be one for action fans to keep their eyes out for in 2020. Be sure to also check out KFK’s interview with Donnie’s “Ip Man 4” and “Raging Fire” co-star Chris Collins, where he also touches on the latter.
Oh, who in the world today doesn’t love the “Fast & Furious” movies? Beginning as little more than “Point Break on wheels” in 2001, the series has transformed into the real-world equivalent of “Last Action Hero”.
Its whole universe is governed by its own laws of physics and logic, with every one of our heroes sharing Jack Slater’s action hero invulnerability, and at this point, there’s no reason to think that anyone would bat an eyelid if an animated cat was a supporting character in the next installment. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait too much longer to see if that’s the case, with “F9”, the next chapter of what is now known as “The Fast Saga” (which will see John Cena come aboard as Dom’s half-brother) hitting theaters this summer.
You want such vehicular insanity such as Dominic Toretto base-jumping a car from one skyscraper to another without a scratch? Well, 2015’s “Furious 7” already has you covered there, but the trailer above just goes to show you that the series isn’t resting on its laurels.
The “Fast & Furious” movies have also excelled in martial arts action since 2011’s “Fast Five”, culminating in the series’ best hand-to-hand battle to date in last year’s “Hobbs and Shaw”. That’s certainly going to be a tough act to follow, but if there’s one thing the “Fast & Furious” crew know how to do, it’s to top the last one!
YouTube has proven to be a fertile ground indeed for aspiring filmmakers to get their pet projects off the ground, and one need look no further than 2015’s short film “Kung Fury” for proof of that.
Sent back in time to put a stop to Adolf Hitler aka ‘The Kung Führer’, “Kung Fury” was every 80’s cop movie rolled into one, with a generous helping of time-travel, dinosaurs, and Norse Gods thrown in for good measure.
Our hero is set to return at last with the upcoming “Kung Fury II: The Movie”, and he’s bringing some well-known friends with him. Namely, Michael Fassbender of “Assassin’s Creed” and the “X-Men” movies, along with The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the role of the American president. Needless to say, the latter plays heavily on Arnold’s predilection for lampooning his own action movie glory days and political career, which leading man and director David Sandberg also made clear in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
The world has eagerly awaited the return of “Kung Fury” since he spin-kicked his way into millions of hearts around the world, and thankfully, the wait will finally come to an end with the debut of “Kung Fury II: The Movie”!
While this entry is now out for the whole world to see, we’d be remiss not to include it among the year’s Most Anticipated. We can see that the 2020 superhero roster is set to start off strong with DC’s “Birds of Prey” (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
Following a bitter break up with The Joker, Harley Quinn is on her own on the streets of Gotham City, only to find herself the target of vicious crime boss, Roman Sionis aka Black Mask. In order to survive and take down Gotham’s rising gang leader, Harley is to join forces with the Birds of Prey, a trio of female vigilantes that include Huntress, Black Canary, and the young Cassandra Cain, whom lovers of DC lore know as one of the women to adopt the mantle of Batgirl.
It goes without saying that Margot Robbie was born to play Harley Quinn, while the very notion of Ewan McGregor going from Obi-Wan Kenobi to Black Mask simply demands to be seen. However, “Birds of Prey” will also be jumping aboard the R-rated comic book movie bandwagon, with 87 Eleven alumni Jon Valera and Chad Stahelski behind the action. The promise of a DC movie with “John Wick” action – yeah, we’re kinda thinking, nobody’s gonna say no to that! Check out KFK’s interview with Jon on 2018’s “Aquaman”, where he also touches on “Birds of Prey” and stay tuned for KFK’s upcoming Action Special review of the movie!
…and in at #1 is…
Sci-fi and martial arts make a splendid pairing, but the upcoming “Jiu Jitsu” is going for something really out there! Based on the graphic novel by Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath, “Jiu Jitsu” will see Alain Moussi in the role of Jake Barnes, a combat veteran with a task no man has ever been burdened with – namely, keeping the planet safe by defeating an alien challenger that arrives on Earth every six years.
>When Jake is defeated in his latest encounter with his extra-terrestrial opponent, he and a collection of human survivors are forced to band together to put a stop to the invader once and for all. Shades of “Beyond Skyline” perhaps? Let’s wait and see…
The ritualized approach “Jiu Jitsu” is taking adds a new element to the alien invasion genre. On top of that, “Jiu Jitsu” is decidedly the martial arts ensemble to beat in 2020, with Alain being joined by Tony Jaa, JuJu Chan, Marrese Crump, Frank Grillo, Nicolas Cage, Rick Yune, and Rigan Machado.
As aficionados of action and sci-fi await the trailer and details on the release of “Jiu Jitsu”, be sure to check out KFK’s interviews with both Alain Moussi and Dimitri Logothetis, where they each share something about it!