Essential Viewing for fans of ‘The Raid: Redemption’ – 15 Classic Martial Arts Films
The release of The Raid: Redemption has made us revisit our favourite martial arts flicks and pick five favourite films to suggest for Sound on Sight readers.
Before I give my five picks though, I would like to turn the floor over to a man who has been a friend of mine since grade seven at Oxford Street Junior High School in Halifax. As the line editor for Steve Jackson Games’ “Generic Universal RolePlaying System”, Sean Punch aka Dr. Kromm has been directly or indirectly responsible for a number of source-books on the Martial Arts including writing and editing GURPS Martial Arts.
I asked him earlier this week what films he would put on his list. He named three.
You’re not looking for goofy, cinematic Asian martial arts are you? Because I tend to like stuff that is more realistic, more like what commandos would use. You mentioned Steven Seagal and you have to include Under Siege on any list like this. It’s his best film and has the best fights of any of his films. His aikido is top notch and he does a really good job of using the environment of the ship while fighting. Plus he uses a knife really well.
It’s not a film that many would point to, but the fights in the second Bourne film (Bourne Supremacy) are really well done. They look like the quick brutal fights that a real, trained commando would have.
The thing with films with realistic martial arts is that most of the time, people have guns. The fights happen only when they can’t use guns. The Tom Cruise film Collateral has a really good fight built around a briefcase, even though most of the time the Cruise character just shoots people.
As Kromm correctly guessed, my five picks are all goofy, cinematic martial arts films. Despite the fact that I am a wrestling geek, I am not a big fan of what “smart” wrestling fans call “work-rate” which is to say technically precise fights. I am much more interested in the emotional context of the fights.
(And now hold on while I completely contradict myself. I contain multitudes.)
In no particular order…
6- Above the Law
Written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett and Andrew Davis based on a story by Andrew Davis and Steven Seagal
Directed by Andrew Davis
USA, 1988, imdb
I cheerfully acknowledge that Under Siege is the better film, but Above the Law is the film that established Seagal as a bad-ass. No one has ever broken arms on film quite like Seagal. The injuries always looked (and sounded) painful and permanent. Steven Seagal’s run as the baddest man on the planet started here and arguably ended with the the success of Under Siege in 1992.
Early in this film, Seagal faces multiple opponents in the middle of a Chicago street, coolly evaluating who he can take and how quickly and then executing his plan, dropping opponents like so much kindling.
Put together by one of Seagal’s aikido pupils, Michael Ovitz, who was convinced that he could make anyone a star, Seagal was surrounded by a great, young director and teamed with Sharon Stone as his wife and Pam Grier as his partner, perhaps hoping that Sharon Stone finding Seagal loveable and Pam Grier believing him to be a bad-ass would achieve for Seagal the same effect as what Ingrid Bergman did for Humphrey Bogart.
“If a face like Ingrid Bergman’s looks at you as though you’re adorable, everybody else does too. You don’t have to act very much” -Humphrey Bogart
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