Last night I finally rented District 13, a movie I’ve wanted to check out for quite a while. It was good. Today on TV, Ong Bak was on, a movie I had already seen, but one I watched again. It got me thinking, I’ve supported a lot of movies that involve a) little or no understandable English mixed with b) really good fight scenes – this would make a great top 10 list!
Here are my choices for the best foreign fight films. In order for the movies to make my list they must:
1) include decent to excellent fighting
2) have a main character or many supporting ones who speak English as a second language
3) although this is not a pre-requisite, chances are the plot will suck
10. Black Mask
This is Jet Li’s first big-time North American release. Well the first one I watched anyway. He kind of broke in after the Jackie Chan wave and did a decent job. His fighting is similar to Chan’s although his use of props is inferior. His English is much, much better. Decent film.
9. Police Story 4: First Strike
Released in North America as Jackie Chan’s First Strike, this was about the third movie to hit NA with Jackie as the lead. He turned down the role of the bad dude in Lethal Weapon 4 (which Jet Li later agreed to) because he didn’t want to be the bad guy. Jackie reprises his role as detective “Kevin” Chan Ka Kui. This time he’s in Australia. His English is still bad, subtitles and dubbing barely help. Highlight of the movie is an underwater battle in a shark tank.
Actually released as Supercop in NA, known as Police Story 3 every where else, Jackie is again detective Kevin. This time he’s on assignment in China. Michelle Yeoh appears in this one as a helpful agent. Together they are quite the team. Most memorable scenes include dirtbikes, hot air balloons and a raid on a bamboo hut. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this was Michelle’s first big role for North American audiences.
7. Ong Bak
Move over Jackie Chan! That’s the first thing I remember about seeing this film for the first time. Tony is fitter, tougher, cooler and more agile. He does it all and doesn’t even look tired. He also doesn’t even bother attempting English, in fact he barely speaks at all. This movie is all subtitles. The plot (when they bother to get around to it) involves a poor villager (Tony Ja) attempting to find the head of Ong Bak, a Buddha statue that has been decapitated for no apparent reason. Tony is sent to find it in Bangkok where crime and dishonor abound. Of course we get the staged chase scenes (which are cool) and the odd man fights. More swift elbows to the head than I’ve ever seen.
6. Romeo Must Die
Although I haven’t seen any of Jet’s really epic films (Hero, etc.) I really enjoyed this one. This is probably the most mainstream of all the movies in this list, and I may not even be following my own rules including it here. The two main combatants are both poor English speakers though. Pretty much follows the Shakespearean tale, boy and girl who have no business being together fall in love. The fight with ‘Tibalt’ though has some of the sweetes x-ray bone breaking I’ve ever seen.