Carter and the best Asian martial arts movies on the Internet right now – Entertainment News , Firstpost – Firstpost

Netflix's Carter is a South Korean extravaganza that at its best, channels some of the martial arts classics of the 21st century.

Earlier this month, Netflix released the South Korean action thriller Carter, directed by Jung Byung-gil and starring Joo Won in the titular role. This is the story of a Jason Bourne-like amnesiac super-spy caught in the middle of a desperate chess-match involving the USA and the two Koreas, even as a zombie virus epidemic threatens to overwhelm the planet. If that sounds like a lot, narratively, it is: Carter ultimately buckles under the weight of one plot twist too many and the storytelling in the second half is particularly muddled.

But along the way, the film delivers some frenetic, wildly entertaining action set-pieces, most of them involving some combination of gunfights and martial arts. None better than an extended battle royale that breaks out at the ten-minute mark, when Carter, having just woken up to a blood-soaked motel bed, finds himself fighting literally hundreds of knife-wielding goons at a public bath. This sequence is informed by several iconic onscreen fights, like Uma Thurmans Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves in Kill Bill which in turn was inspired by Bruce Lees fight at the karate school in Fist of Fury.

Carters hand-to-hand combat scenes are impressive but they arent really the heart of the film. For a more concentrated dose of South Asian martial arts movies (hand-to-hand or swordplay), the films discussed below would be my pick. A few disclaimersfor this list Ive considered only Asian films (the list includes Chinese, Korean, Indonesian and Thai productions) available to stream in India, and used the year 2000 as cut-off. Obviously, the classics of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or Jet Lis filmographies would make it to most such lists, and I thought itd be nice to focus on 21st century works instead.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000; available on Amazon Prime Video)

Ang Lees wuxia classic starred Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi and wowed audiences around the world with its action choreography, swordplay sequences (with stunning wire fu work) as well the poignance of its storytelling. It was nominated for 10 Oscars (still a record for a non-American film) and ended up winning 4. The climactic battle between Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) and Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei) is breathtakingly beautiful, as is the scene where we sees Yu Shu Liens (Michelle Yeoh) skills for the first time. Warriors glide over bamboo thickets, deflecting arrows as idly as one might swat flies. The aesthetics and sensibilities we associate with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon today is highly unusual for the martial arts genre, which makes it a must-watch for genre enthusiasts and the lay viewer alike.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004; available on Amazon Prime Video)

Stephen Chow co-wrote, directed and starred in one of the finest action comedies of all time, a unique blend of Bruce Lee-grade martial arts choreography with Looney Tunes-flavoured gags. James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy and the recent HBO Max series Peacemaker) recently called Kung Fu Hustle the greatest film of all time, and one can see the appeal for contemporary action-comedy creators like him. This is the kind of film thats so confident and swaggering in its technical proficiency that the frequent and dizzyingly fast tonal shifts feel almost breezy.

There are so many great scenes in Kung Fu Hustle but the one Ill single out is the Beast (Leung Siu-lung) fighting the Landlord and Landlady of Pig Sty Alley at the same time, a superbly shot and expertly performed fight that ends in a three-way joint lock. Few films since Kung Fu Hustle have come anywhere near this level of martial arts artistry, and of those none have been as effortlessly funny.

Ip Man (2008; available on Amazon Prime Video)

Donnie Yen has been perhaps the best all-round onscreen martial artist of the last decade or so, with the 4 Ip Man films being the standouts. He has the strength, speed and finesse of Bruce Lee, combined with Jackie Chans improvisational touch that elevates combat scenes. The first Ip Man film, directed by the real-life Ip Mans son Wilson Yip, remains one of the highlights of 21s century martial arts cinema, showing off Yens prowess at wing chun, the Southern Chinese style of kung fu later made world-famous by Ip Mans most illustrious disciple, Bruce Lee.

Two scenes that are imprinted upon the mid: when Ip Man fights ten Japanese karatekas and annihilates them in front of his Japanese military captors. I dont think there has ever been a cinematic display of sheer hand speed to rival this scene. Scott Adkins, one of the leading martial arts stars of the world himself, expressed amazement at Donnie Yens skills while breaking this scene down on his YouTube channel.

The other scene is Ip Man defending a group of factory workers against scores of armed goons at the same time. The way this scene has been shotclose-quarters combat shots interspersed with a roving overhead camera to show us the steep odds Ip Man is fighting is really quite clever and utilizes Yens dizzying hand speed. The storyline might be like a Bollywood melodrama, with overlapping themes of cultural and national pride, but for sheer martial arts goodness its tough to beat Ip Man.

The Raid (2011; available on Amazon Prime Video)

The Indonesian actor Iko Uwais is one of the leading martial arts stars in the world today, leading his own Netflix series (Wu Assassins) and choreographing fights in mainstream Hollywood blockbusters. And though he made his debut with Merantau (2009), it was Gareth Evanss The Raid (2011) that made him a globally popular star.

The storyline is simple but the execution is spectacular Uwais protagonist Rama is one of several Special Forces rookies tasked with taking out a local drug lord called Tama Riyadi who lives on the top floor of a rundown apartment building. But when Riyadi is alerted to the arrival of Rama and his team, he declares an open bounty to the apartments many criminal residents; whoever kills the cops are entitled to a rent-free existence.

The constrained-space action that The Raid excelled in has now been aped across the world (including the climax of the Bollywood film Baaghi, starring Tiger Shroff). Again and again, Rama is cornered and outnumbered but fights his way out in brutal fashion, an explosion of fists and knivesfor the martial art on display here is Indonesias pencak silat which combines elements from full-body fighting, grappling as well as knife-play, with distinctive-looking curved blades being the norm.

Few films have influenced as many action choreographers around the world in recent times; watch The Raid for an unadulterated adrenaline shot to the heart.

Revenger (2018; available on Netflix)

Prolific stunt-man and fight choreographer Bruce Khan finally received a leading man role with the South Korean vendetta thriller Revenger, directed by Lee Seung-won. Khan stars as Yool, a disillusioned cop and martial arts master searching for the man who killed his family years ago. His search leads him, finally, to a prison island where an ultra-violent group of criminals has been living for a long time. In the middle of the greenery and the idyllic settings, these psychopaths have been murdering and terrorising the local villagers, treating them as playthings.

Equal parts Kill Bill and Seven Samurai in its set-up, Revenger never threatens to reach the storytelling heights reached by those films. But boy, it sure knows how to put on a blood-soaked spectacle. Khans swordplay is every bit as impressive as his kung fu, and an extended battle in the climax sees him mowing down close to a hundred opponents even as hes bleeding terminally. Not quite in the class of some of the films discussed here, but bloody good fun nevertheless.

Furie (2019; available on Netflix)

Veronica Ngo is known to Hollywood audiences through her role as Hanoi Hannah in Da Five Bloods and a cameo in The Old Guard. But her finest action movie is the Vietnamese production Furie, about an ex-assassins search for her kidnapped daughter, who has fallen into the clutches of a trafficking gang led by Thanh Soi (Tran Thanh Hoa).

Furies hyper-active opening chase-and-fight sequence is impressive enough, but when the action moves to an old-fashioned train in the climax, the fun is kicked into top gear. Ngo excels in the role of Hai Phuong, a woman who has to un-learn her polite society mannerisms to re-enter the murky environs she had exited for the sake of her little girl. And once again, constrained-space action scenes rule; Hais fight with a taciturn gangster called Truc escalates to brutal, bone-crunching horror within the four walls of Trucs one-room house.

Man of Tai Chi (2019; available on Netflix)

The last and the most recent entry on the list is a sentimental favourite for yours truly, not least because its the only film till date directed by Keanu Reeves, Hollywoods reigning action star once again, after a decade or so away from box office gold. Reeves based the story loosely on his friend, the martial artist Tiger Chen, who played minor roles and Reeves stunt double in The Matrix and its sequels.

Tiger deploys a Tai Chi-adjacent style of kung fu here, which is the films novelty value. But its also pretty strong in the usual martial arts movie waygreat set-pieces, tremendously skilled fighters throughout (including Reeves himself playing the villain and Iko Uwais making a cameo appearance during the climax) and a real flair when it comes to choreographing the many hand-to-hand combat scenes featuring Tiger chewing up considerably larger opponents. Its fun to see Reeves playing a straight-up evil dude, too.

Aditya Mani Jha is a Delhi-based independent writer and journalist, currently working on a book of essays on Indian comics and graphic novels.

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