Good Fighting Movies

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 7:00 am

Good fighting movies are so awesome that I’m about to pee my pants just thinking about them. Besides causing uncontrollable loss of bladder functions, these action-packed flicks provide loads of broken and bloodied bodies, frequent gunplay, and quality nudity from a bevy of wanna-be starlets. Every night I get down on my knees and say a little prayer for action movies. After all, without them we wouldn’t have such battle-ready thespians as Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Whether you’re a fighting movie novice or veteran, the following selections are (almost) guaranteed to get the heart pumping faster and the adrenaline flowing. Who knows – you might even find yourself humming the theme to Walker, Texas Ranger.

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The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) – Considered a classic of the kung fu genre, it also influenced the name of the Wu-Tang Clan’s first album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. Gordon Liu stars as San Te, a young martial artist who seeks revenge after government forces massacre his friends and family. Training with Shaolin monks, he begins mastering the techniques found in their 35 chambers. Yeah, I realize that leaves one chamber unaccounted for, but you’ll just have to watch the film to solve the mystery.

Hard Target (1993) – John Woo and Jean-Claude Van Damme team up in this action-packed film set in New Orleans. When a young woman (Yancy Butler) comes looking for her missing father, she’s assisted by Chance Boudreaux (Van Damme) a local homeless man. But there’s more to Chance than meets the eye, and the duo are soon on the run from Emil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) and Pik van Cleaf (Arnold Vosloo), a pair of businessman who provide human targets for the wealthy to hunt. A nice mix of hand-to-hand and gunplay, and Woo doesn’t hesitate to use liberal doses of slow motion in his U.S. directorial debut. Wilford Brimley plays a Cajun, so that’s another mark in its favor.

Marked for Death (1990) – A burnout DEA agent named John Hatcher (Steven Seagal) returns home to find himself, but instead finds his old neighborhood overrun with drug dealers, especially the aggressive Jamaican Posse and their sinister leader, Screwface. It doesn’t take Hatcher long to get involved, and he’s assisted by hometown pal Max (Keith David). The pair go to Jamaica and back, eventually teaming up with a cop who’s been trailing the drug lord for years. Seagal always had a knack for brutal fight scenes, and Marked for Death is no exception. Gouged out eyes, severed heads, swords to the crotch , and many other goodies away first-time viewers. In the immortal words of Screwface, “Stop your bloodclot cryin.’”

The Protector (2005) – Starring Thai sensation Tony Jaa, The Protector (also known as Tom-Yum-Goong) features Jaa as the last of a family of guardians who watch over war elephants for the King of Thailand. When the elephants under his charge are stolen and taken to Australia, he tracks them down and mixes it up with a transsexual crime boss, corrupt cops, a giant wrestler, and plenty of gang members. A few fight scenes really stand out for their choreography and sheer brutality, but my favorite comes when the film’s hero storms a massive restaurant and kicks the crap out of person after person while the camera never jerks or cuts away. If you haven’t seen Tony Jaa in action, I would highly recommend that you do so.

Rocky IV (1985) – Fighting movies are a dime a dozen, but good fighting movies are a rare commodity. If that’s truly the case, then Rocky IV is worth a whole pile of gold. You’ve got the death of flamboyant Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) at the hands of sinister Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), Rocky on a quest for revenge, and a Cold War showdown that even Khrushchev could be proud of. It all culminates in an unsanctioned fight for the title in Moscow, and America once again proves its dominance against foreigners on the big screen.

300 (2006) – Gerard Butler and a whole host of male stripper look-alikes band together to fend off the attacks of King Xerxes, the seven-foot-tall ruler of Persia (and one of the most bizexual-looking characters I’ve ever seen). In order to save the day, they’ll have to take on rhinos, war elephants, giant mutants, “mystics,” and lots and lots of arrows. There’s also a bitchin’ hunchback who betrays everyone in exchange for a nifty hat. Directed by Zach Snyder, this is a total “guy movie,” but the ladies should be satisfied considering the hunky physical appearance of almost every man up on the screen.

Gladiator (2000) – Russell Crowe is General Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Spaniard who serves as one of the commanders of the feared Roman Legion. But when Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) passes away, weasely son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) takes control of the Roman Empire and tries to have our hero killed. Big mistake, Commodus. Instead, Maximus is sold into slavery as a gladiator and waits until an “only-in-Hollywood” series of events allow him a chance for revenge. Some of the non-fight moments are forgettable, but director Ridley Scott makes damn sure to include plenty of gory Roman-style brutality. One includes Maximus taking on both an undefeated gladiator and a tiger, and my favorite features a group of men fending off archers and charioteers. As modern good fighting movies go, Gladiator is a winner.

Raging Bull (1980) – Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro team up to tell the story of former boxing champ Jake LaMotta, a madman in and out of the ring. Filmed in black-and-white, we follow LaMotta through his lengthy career, his rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, and his contentious relationship with both his brother (Joe Pesci) and teen bride (Cathy Moriarty). Now considered one of the greatest films ever made, it was criticized by some dumbass critics back in 1980 for its high violence level. I’d love to give those guys (and gals) the ‘ol A Clockwork Orange eyeball treatment and make them watch Hostel and a few of the Saw movies.

Above the Law (1988) – Steven Seagal makes his acting debut, and he immediately sets new standards in the field of breaking forearms. With Pam Grier as his partner and Sharon Stone as his hot wife, Seagal plays Nico Toscani, a former Vietnam-era CIA agent turned Chicago cop. When his priest is killed in a church bombing and many of his arrests are overturned, Nico must get to the bottom of a dark conspiracy in the only way he knows how – by breaking bones, wearing a ponytail, and running like a little girl. Henry Silva is good as the villainous Kurt Zagon, and master character actor Chelcie Ross puts in an appearance as Nico’s old CIA pal, Nelson Fox. After the success of this film, Seagal’s career went through the roof, at least until he put on 60 pounds and became more interested in the environment and blues guitar.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) – The first time I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1, I wanted to walk out of the theater. With it’s faux-cool dialogue, Uma Thurman’s gnarly feet, and lots of other pointless nonsense, it really got on my bad side. I’ve mellowed on it in recent years, however, and while I still don’t care for all of it, I do have to admit that the fight sequences are badass. Whether it’s a brutal suburban knife fight, an elegant sword duel in the snow, or a balls-to-the-wall showdown against an army of underworld henchman, Kill Bill delivers the goods in the action department.

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Congrats on making it through our list of good fighting movies without losing a tooth or suffering a concussion. Since you’re still conscious, why not brave the following articles from Only Good Movies:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 at 7:00 am and is filed under Good Movies, Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Good Fighting Movies”

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April 19, 2012

Jamie Wild

Marked for Death is from the Golden Age of Action Movies, back when they knew how to film action scenes. Brutality and a wide angle was the key, not shaking cameras and close-ups so close you can see the sweat. When it’s not the frenetic film maker ruining the scene, it’s computer graphics. CGI has just about destroyed action, but call me an old timer. Nothing in an CGI film has the charm of seeing Keith David whack that one fellow with the butt of his rifle after Steven Seagal has already put the guy on the floor.

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