We got a whole lotta kickin’ going on at redbox these days. Here’s your handy guide to all the martial-arts action available for rental!
(Note: If you’re not into subtitles, all of these films except the Shaw Brothers classics have English-language dub tracks available on the DVDs.)
Where the heck are we? British-controlled Hong Kong in the 1950s
Who’s doin’ all the kickin’? Hong Kong stars Donnie Yen as legendary real-life kung-fun instructor Ip Man and Sammo Hung as one of his rivals. (The famed actor Hung also choreographed the fight scenes.)
What kind of kickin’ is it? The many terrific fight scenes mostly display Wing Chun fighting, the style of Chinese martial arts taught and promoted by Man
Why for? Man’s attempts to start up a Wing Chun school are threatened by local rival gangs and later a brutal, villainous American fighter called Twister.
What kind of movie is it? A sequel to 2008′s successful Ip Man, part 2 is very Rocky 4, right down to the final “we can be friends” speech to a fight crowd. The Ip Man movies feature dazzling and impressive fight scenes, but are also grounded by a more reality-based stories, good acting, and Yen’s solid, likable presence.
Best part? A martial arts fight test involving a room full of overturned chairs is especially great. (Also there’s a cameo at the very end from the boy who would become Man’s most famous student.)
Where the heck are we? 15th-century Thailand, as seen through star and co-director Tony Jaa’s fevered imagination
Who’s doin’ all the kickin’? Tony Jaa! Star of Ong Bak 1 & 2 and one of the most exciting (and nutso) martial-arts movie performers out there, and–for a brief time in 2010–a Thai monk.
What kind of kickin’ is it? Muay Thai, also known as the Art of Eight Limbs–when you watch Jaa in action you’ll understand why.
Why for? Oh gosh, I’m not really sure–as in the awesome Ong Bak 2, Jaa is once again Tien, a sort of fightin’ Chosen One who–after recovering from his Ong Bak 2 wounds–is back to defending the honor of elephants everywhere and fightin’ some evil royal bad guy ruler cause he did something. I think. I don’t watch or love the Ong Bak movies for their plots.
What kind of movie is it? While completely, beautifully over the top in the fight scenes, Jaa’s films always have a gritty, muddy naturalism to all the whack-smack. You’re never quite sure why things are happening, but they’re always fantastic to watch.
Best part? Much to my chagrin, Jaa does not bitch-slap an elephant to its knees in this one, but you’ll be happy to know he does have a wild finale rematch with his fierce enemy the Crow Ghost (Dan Chupong)!
- Reserve it at redbox.com
- There are also still copies of Ong Bak 2: The Beginning out there if you want to make it a full Ong Bak Night!
Muay Thai Fighter (Chaiya)
Where the heck are we? Thailand’s Chaiya District and Bangkok, present day
Who’s doin’ all the kickin’? Three childhood friends whose lives take them in different directions
What kind of kickin’ is it? Mostly bare-knuckle kick-boxing matches with a Muay Thai or Chaiya style flavor.
Why for? In the big city of Bangkok some of the friends get caught up in fighting fixed matches for local crime lords.
What kind of movie is it? Think Slumdog Millionaire Thai-style, only with more people getting kicked in the face. Plus big romantic subplots full of heavy sighs and Asian pop ballads.
Best part? One of the guys flirts with a nurse at a hospital by asking, “Miss, would you like to open my chest and examine my heart?” (I wrote that one down to use myself sometime.)
Where the heck are we? Medieval fantasy China
Who’s doin’ all the kickin’? Aaron Kwok (also a dancer) and Ekin Cheng (also a singer) as the warriors Cloud and Wind.
What kind of kickin’ is it? Not as much hand-to-hand (or foot-to-face)–we’re talking epic sorcery battles, energy bolts, magic chains, that sort of thing.
Why for? The evil Japanese warlord Lord Godless has invaded China.
Best part? “Let me use my molten fist!” hollers a bad guy as some really spectacular elemental battles unfold. Stuff gets seriously busted up.
Where the heck are we? Modern-day Hong Kong
Who’s doin’ all the kickin’? Co-director Wu Jing, aka Jacky Wu, as “Bruce” a mysterious (and legendary) crime-world assassin
What kind of kickin’ is it? A harder-edged Jackie-Chan style martial arts, thanks to Chan protégé Nicky Li, the fight choreographer who also co-directed.
Why for? Walking around with his latest target’s head in a bowling-ball bag, loner Bruce falls for a cute police officer (singer-model Celina Jade).
What kind of movie is it? Archly melodramatic, with lots of John-Woo-style angst over conflicting loyalties and moral codes.
Best part? There’s a fine one-man-versus-an-army climactic battle in the rain, but did I mention Bruce walks around with a guy’s noggin in a bowling bag?! That leads one character to declare, “I want you to return my husbands head.”
You can also still rent three highly recommended classic kung-fu movies from the famous Shaw Brothers Studios: