5 Asian Movie Badasses You Dont Know About

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Just The Facts

  1. To become an Asian movie badass you must first be wronged.
  2. Once wronged you will seek to avenge yourself.
  3. Vengeance may be applied specifically, or to the world at large.

Badassery in film: a brief introduction

The classic badasses of Western cinema kick epic amounts of bad-guy butt as they fight to protect the innocent and the free. Characters such as John McClane, Rambo and Dirty Harry rack up their body counts as they systematically take down the criminals and war mongers that stand in opposition to the greater good.

Asian movie badasses don't fight for the social good, their motives are intensely personal - their mission is one of cold blood and vengeance.

Here are 5 cult Asian movie badasses that you don't know about:

Kuan Hsiao Lou

David Chiang as Hsiao Lou

Vengeance (dir. Chang Cheh, 1970; Hong Kong)

Motivation for Vengeance:

The film opens with the protagonist's brother Yu-Lou confronting his boss for flirtation with Yu-Lou's wife. Despite putting up a brave last stand Kuan Yu-Lou falls under the wrath of a room full of hatchet-wielding henchmen. Soon afterwards Kuan Hsiao Lou arrives in town to avenge his murdered brother.

Why He's Badass:

Although the plot may lack originality there are some wonderful scenes and brilliant acting from Shaw Brothers studio star David Chiang as the brooding main character. With the aid of Judo and deadly knife-play Hsiao Lou battles his way through the underworld, fighting no end of low level minions and even solid-snaking his way into the gang HQ. In the final battle Chiang's portrayal of cold-blooded determination makes Hsiao Lou all the more badassed - despite being heavily outnumbered, despite losing so much blood that he can hardly stand, he avenges his brother before he himself succumbs to the overwhelming odds.

Lee Geum-Ja aka Lady Vengeance

Lee Yeong-Ae as Lady Vengeance

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (dir. Park Chan Wook, 2005; South Korea)

Motivation for vengeance:

The young and innocent Geum-Ja is blackmailed into confessing to the murder of a young child; if she refuses to confess then her own child will be killed. She loses her youth, her sweet spirit and her daughter.

Why She's Badass:

Director Park Chan Wook has said that whilst his previous film Oldboy depicted a violently masculine style of vengeance, Lady Vengeance exhibits vengeance of a uniquely feminine form. Rather than hacking and slashing her way from scene to scene Geum-Ja bides her time and acts with calculated precision. Whilst in prison she creates a network of contacts who lay the groundwork for her revenge in the years before her release. Although her vengeance is collaborative and her role is non-aggressive the sheer weight of her presence is enough assure you of her badass status. Did I mention that she has a custom made pistol? - Beautiful and deadly.

Nami Matsushima aka Matsu the Scorpion

Meiko Kaji as Scorpion

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (dir. Shunya Ito, 1972; Japan)

Motivation for vengeance:

Nami's crooked cop boyfriend Sugimi professes his love for her in order to take her virginity, then he allows her to be raped by Yakuza gang members. She makes an attempt to stab Sugimi, but she fails and is taken to a womens prison full of abusive guards and hateful inmates. Despite being locked away her knowledge of the ties between Sugimi and the Yakuza mean that she must be eliminated, and so they plan for her to have an 'accident' in prison.

Why She's Badass:

Matsu drifts from one scene of torture to another, she is persecuted aggressively from all corners and yet she manages to get revenge on all who cause her harm. Whilst her arms and legs are tied she is still able to hospitalise a tormentor; she manages to break out of jail and kills all of the gang members who raped her and she mortally wounds Sugimi. When an undercover female prison guard is assigned to her to gain information Matsu pretends to be a lesbian; the next day the guard has failed to discover anything and in fact becomes desperate to spend more time with the Scorpion. Matsu's determination is like iron when she strikes.

Lone Wolf & Cub

Tomisaburo Wakayama as Lone Wof

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (aka Child and Expertise For Rent) (dir. Kenji Misumi, 1972; Japan)

Motivation for vengeance:

Ogami Itto was once the respected head executioner to the shogun, but he is framed for treason in a complicated plot to usurp his official position. He loses both his wife and his honor and so turns to the life of a wandering samurai.

Why They're Badass:

After his mother's death Itto offers his son Daigoro either a ball or a sword. If the child chose the ball then Itto would send him to be with his mother; if he chose the sword then that meant that he had chosen the path of the ronin with his father. Little Daigoro chose the weapon and so he and his father live as wandering mercenaries - with incredible sword skills, father-son teamwork and a bullet proof baby carriage their daring feats are as great as their crippling loss.

Kakihara

Ichi The Killer (dir. Takashi Miike, 2001; Japan)

Motivation for vengeance:

Kakihara's gang boss is murdered and so he sets out on a violent tour de force in search of The Killer.

Why He's Badass:

Have you ever hung a dude up with meathooks in his back and then poured boiling oil all over his body? No? Well Kakihara has. He's a vicious sadomasochist who will cut off his own tongue just to prove a point - whilst reveling in the cruelty shown to his enemies. During his brutal journey to find Ichi his driving motivation changes quite dramatically. Rather than searching for his boss's murderer he instead looks forward to an agonising physical encounter to exceed any that he has ever felt before. At the end of the films he laments: "Damn... Nobody left to kill me..." not a single person could offer Kakihara the sort of thrills he had been yearning for; however he does eventually receive satisfaction.