The 5 Most Ridiculous Martial Arts Movies Ever
We don't expect much from our martial arts movies. A shallow plot (you killed my father/master/mother/wife/dog/cat, so now I'm going to kill you/your father/master/mother/wife/dog/cat) is acceptable so long as there are some serious ass kickings along the way.
You'd think it'd be a hard formula to screw up. You'd be so wrong.
The Dragon Lives Again
The movies following Bruce Lee's death filled a void for fans robbed too soon of their hero, even if they were uniformly awful. So maybe some of them can be forgiven for the incredibly classy move of cashing in on his death by trotting out imitators such as Bruce Li, Bruce Le and Dragon Lee. But not all of them; not The Dragon Lives Again. Here's the first reason why: This movie isn't about an actor playing a "Bruce Lee" like role. This movie is about Bruce Lee--the actual guy, not a character he played--dying and going to hell.
It begins with his corpse (played by Bruce Leung) getting a boner.
Sure, it turns out that it's really just his nunchucks (happens to us all the time) and the intention is to make us laugh, but when you consider that the actual Bruce Lee only died a few years prior to The Dragon Lives Again, you've got to wonder if the most respectful way to honor his legacy is casket-boner jokes. Actually, you don't have to wonder about that at all.
It quickly gets much, much worse. After showing up in Hell he goes to a bar and meets Popeye (you heard us), Clint Eastwood, James Bond and Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine from Kung Fu--so now there's twice the sacrilege!).
It's an all-star cast! Of blasphemy!
In the next scene, Bruce utters an apology to his wife Linda (Bruce Lee's real wife) for "play[ing] around just too much." A female character next to him excuses his behavior, saying "When a man's endowed like Bruce, the girls are bound to want him. He's got to have his fun, eh Bruce-e?"
Yup, that's an adultery joke at the expense of the recently deceased. We'd say that's a dick move, but maybe Linda Lee got some much needed closure from that onscreen apology for her dead husband's never confirmed, rumored adultery, from a guy who sort of looks like Bruce in a movie made by people exploiting his name for money. We think that's the fourth step in grieving, right?
Step five is naked tea parties.
The rest of this atrocity focuses on Bruce's time in the underworld, in which he outlaws gambling for some reason, and starts training everybody in the martial arts... including Popeye. Then he almost gets a blowjob from Emmanuelle, a softcore porn character from the 70s (sorry, Linda, looks like his previous apology wasn't even sincere!) For his last trick, Bruce beats up Dracula, James Bond, Clint Eastwood, the Exorcist and the Godfather. One threat to the King of the Underworld later and Bruce Lee's sent back to Earth. The Dragon lives again. Get it? The end.
Somehow Chinese Popeye makes the most sense in all of this.
The Story of Ricky
Based on a manga (which, for those of you who don't know, is basically a comic book after it's been raped by severed limbs), The Story of Ricky follows Ricky Ho (also spelled Ricki Oh in some versions) as he's sent to prison for killing the man who drove his girlfriend to tragically commit suicide. The rest of the movie follows Ricky struggling against the corrupt wardens and gangs running the prison. Well, hell, it's just like The Shawshank Redemption! Nothing baffling about that.
Well, then stuff like this happens:
That's a dude getting his skull clapped off. The movie is a mind-boggling gorefest; the whole setup is really just a thin excuse for an endless array of gruesome horrors. Ordinary prisoners face ridiculous punishments for the smallest of infractions, such as a wood planer up the face and a cane in the eye.
What keeps this from straying into Saw territory is the fact that either the souls of the victims are being transferred to mannequins at the last moment due to some ancient curse, or they're just really bad at editing around their prop dummies. For instance, we see this guy falling face-first into a board of sharp nails...
Holy shit! This is going to be horrible!
Ah, never mind. It's a CPR dummy.
Meanwhile, the main character Ricky is more or less immune to pain, superhumanly strong and, for all intents and purposes, immortal. Using his super powers Ricky attempts to protect the innocent prisoners (what?) from the gangs, and there are feel-good moments when he goes out of his way to comfort them. You get the sense that if he could, he'd free them all. If he only had super strength, the kind you could use to break "through" things...
OK, steel doors and bars are one thing, but surely the prison walls are nigh impreg-
And it's not like he didn't know he could break through stone either. There's a whole training sequence flashback where he's smashing through dozens of tombstones with his uncle, in happier days. But the alternative script for a logical Story of Ricky was two pages long, one of which consisted of the words "Ricky goes to prison, then decides to leave." The other was just a graphically detailed crayon drawing of a smashed brain.
Ever wonder what the Rain Man would've been like if, instead of math, he'd been a ball-punching savant? And he had to fight an evil Rain Man at the end? Wonder no more!
Chocolate is the heartwarming tale of a mentally handicapped girl trying to save her ailing mother by extorting businessmen out of their hard-earned money via kicks to the neck.
It's all going great until the Thai mob enters the picture. They send out Yakuza assassins, and the mentally handicapped protagonist, Zen, has to fight an endless wave of mob goons using only the power of Weaponized Autism. Just when it seems as if nothing is going to stop her, the bad guys decide to fight fire with fire...
Meet Thomas, an evil mentally challenged kung fu master. What, exactly, his disability happens to be isn't clear, but it doesn't really matter: Having any kind of special need in this film translates into martial arts mastery. He's literally the only character that gives Zen a run for her money, but it's OK because his Epilepsy Style is no match for her Social Withdrawal Style.
In that clip, Zen beats Thomas by using her autistic disability to imitate his disability, which is basically just twitching in a way beneficial to fighting. You know what they say: The only way to beat a cripple is to become a cripple. Oh wait, nobody says that, because that's fucking horrible, Chocolate.
There is literally no joke we can make about this scene that won't instantly damn us to hell.
So why is the movie called Chocolate? Because the main character likes chocolate. Oh, and probably because they didn't want a title that accurately reflected the fact that their film is about people with mental disabilities beating each other to a pulp. Any theater displaying that on the marquee is probably getting burned to the ground.
Heart of the Dragon
So, before today, how many movies about mentally handicapped martial artists could you name? Well, congratulations, after today it's two.
In Heart of the Dragon Jackie Chan plays Tad (wait, really?), a cop who works with the SWAT team, who gives up his dreams of sailing the world in order to support his brother, Danny. Danny is played by Sammo Hung--a huge star most well known in Hong Kong for his movies, and most recognized in the States for his hit series Martial Law (what do you mean "what's Martial Law?" Grow some fucking culture, heathens).
Hung is the mentally challenged one, by the way. Honestly, is this a whole genre over there? Does "handicapped" mean something different in Asia? Do roving gangs of mentally disabled just terrorize the streets in Hong Kong?
This film attempts quite a bit of dramatic bonding between the characters in between the kung fu, and we quickly learn that this is not a great genre for learning important lessons about the mentally challenged. One minute somebody's struggling with balancing life goals and supporting their handicapped brother, the next they're getting a back-kick to the groin.
For example, when we first meet Danny, he's goaded into ordering all kinds of food from an expensive restaurant for his friends, none of which he can pay for. He's embarrassed and wants to go home. This is a mentally challenged man who's been taken advantage of by people he thought he could trust. Tragic.
At least, it would be if the staff at the restaurant didn't respond by instantly kung fu-ing the ass of a clearly disabled man, complete with wacky sound effects--every punch to his stomach sounds like Moe beating up on Curly.
Danny eventually locks himself in the kitchen freezer at the restaurant and won't let anyone in. When he's finally brought out by Jackie Chan, he's cartoonishly frozen--but the surrounding characters treat it all very seriously.
It's all just so, so wrong. It's like they never sat down and had a meeting about whether they were making a slapstick kung fu comedy or a heartfelt Best Picture nominee. Serious predicaments are treated with comical beatings, and the cartoonish antics are treated like high drama. And the thing is, you don't feel right laughing during any of it, because at the end of the day you're watching a guy with a malfunctioning brain get kicked in the gut.
The Crippled Masters
The Crippled Masters is about Lee Ho and Tang, two guys that are crippled by their evil master. Say what you will about Asian cinema, those guys get right to the point with their titles. If Inception was filmed in Hong Kong, it would be called Punch You in Your Dreams.
Lee Ho has his arms chopped off by his master's goons, which includes Tang at this point for some irony later on. But instead of writhing around in pain or maybe dying from blood loss, Lee Ho just kind of stands around and argues with Tang. Even after being thrown out the front gate, he gets up and staggers into town with his bloody stumps. The dude deals with tragedy really well, we guess is the point of all that.
Our interns, on the other hand, whine whenever they lose one measly finger.
Lee Ho, still freshly armless, sits down to eat (they're called priorities, gentlemen), when some other diners notice he's got no arms. Naturally, they call a bouncer to beat the crap out of Lee Ho before throwing him out. Shit, you think your neighborhood's bad? In Lee Ho's 'hood they kick your ass for daring to get your own arms chopped off. But eventually, Tang, the one who saw to Lee Ho's disarmament, has his legs burned to uselessness by the same master, apparently not catching on to the hostile work environment after being ordered to chop off his co-worker's arms.
He's then shoved off a cliff where he lands, by chance, right next to Lee Ho, who's a bit put out about the whole arm thing (still?) and proceeds to beat the tar out of Tang. Only the sudden appearance of an old man stops the fighting. He convinces them they can learn kung fu and get revenge on their master if they work together. Off camera, somebody screams "montage!" and that seems like a good idea, so they do that.
They train hard, become adept at fighting, and get right down to using their newly acquired skills to do everything but kill their master. They go back to the restaurant to get even with the host who had Lee Ho thrown out earlier, but somehow agree to pull a heist for the old man, who wants to steal a treasure known as the 8 Jade Horses, and so of course they- wait, what just happened movie? Did you stop paying attention yourself?
A little later someone completely unrelated (i.e. not the host who prompted them to steal the 8 Jade horses in the first place) explains that the horse statues are actually a puzzle revealing, conveniently enough, the art of crippled kung fu. By combining the pieces, they learn all about the secret and mysterious fighting style which basically boils down to "ass to ass." Mentally re-cast that scene in Requiem for a Dream with two crippled Chinese guys, and you've pretty much got it.
Or else one just becomes the other's half-man backpack.
The crippled masters are finally ready to get their revenge, and at last face their evil master. But wait: The only thing that allows the crippled masters to defeat their own evil master (who they hate, because he crippled them)... is the fact that their master crippled them.
...Holy shit, is this the Chinese Memento?
For more martial arts insanity, check out 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity and The Most Batshit Insane Martial Arts Movie Ever.
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