It wasn’t long ago that traditional kung fu cinema was considered to be on rocky ground. With the bright lights of Hollywood enticing some of the genre’s biggest stars (Jackie Chan, Jet Li and even Chow Yun Fat), it seemed as though martial arts films desperately needed to usher in a new generation of talent.
While the likes of Wu Jing and Nicholas Tse stepped up to the challenge, their films were often met with lukewarm reviews and lackluster reactions from fans.
Eventually, new (and old) icons of kung fu cinema would give the genre a much needed makeover. People like Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Scott Adkins brought about a kung fu revolution, fueling others to take new spins on already established themes and aesthetics.
So, with martial arts movies being better than they have been in quite some time, what do we have to look forward to? Well, here’s a small selection of highly anticipated films we can expect to make their way to our screens within the next year.
1. Special ID
Donnie Yen reinvented the face of modern martial arts choreography with his films, “Sha Po Lang” and “Flashpoint.”
Instead of sticking to the traditional style of yesteryear, Yen sought to utilize aspects of MMA in his action sequences. Incorporating a more grounded style of combat, including familiar locks, holds as well as knee and elbow strikes, he single-handedly brought about a grittier age of fight direction.
Since “Flashpoint” he has returned to more period based martial arts films, leaving fans desperate to know when we would get another taste of his arguably preferred fight styling.
Well…the wait is over and, good lord, does it look like he’s delivered! “Special ID” has suffered law suits, re-shoots and cast members being fired but you wouldn’t be able to tell from this adrenalized trailer.
Marrese Crump seems to have been associated with kung fu cinema for years now and yet his filmography reveals very few recognizable projects (he was Rza’s stunt double for “The Man with the Iron Fists”).
Having found himself an honorary member of the Panna Rittikrai/Tony Jaa camp, he’s certainly set for bigger things.
Here is a short concept trailer for “Formless,” a film that finally sees Crump as the leading man.
Little else is known about the film, but considering Crump is proficient in Muay Thai, Karate, Capoeira and Taekwondo and with Rittikrai choreographing the action, it’s safe to say the film will certainly pack a punch…and probably a few kicks.
3. Once Upon a Time in Shanghai
Very little is known about “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai.” Talented newcomer and real life kung fu practitioner, Phillip Ng, stars alongside a stellar cast including Andy On, Luxia Jiang and the legendary Sammo Hung and that’s about all that’s out there.
Add Yuen Woo Ping on choreography duties, however, and it looks like we may have something to look forward to.
The teaser isn’t so much an actual trailer (it features no film footage) as it is a short showreel for Phillip Ng, showing off his Hung Gar and Wing Chun skills. But if it is anything to go off, this could really make Ng someone to watch.
4. The Iceman Cometh 3D
Donnie Yen always seems to have at least a dozen projects on his hands at all times. In between starring in “Special ID,” having talks about a possible “Ip Man 3D” and spending countless hours in make-up for the upcoming “The Monkey King,” he found time to star in and direct “The Iceman Cometh 3D.”
Essentially a remake of the 1989 Yuen Biao film, it sees Donnie playing a medieval warrior who, after years of being frozen, is thawed out and forced to track down a counterpart in modern day Hong Kong.
It may sound a little silly, but it looks to be an interesting take on a traditional “cat and mouse” story. Besides, the film features a high-speed chase between a horse and a Ferrari. What’s not to love
Yen has recently revealed that the film has now been split into two parts, so if the first doesn’t quench your thirst for Donnie’s trademark choreography, you can always look forward to the sequel!
5. Once Upon a Time in Vietnam
What do you get when you combine esteemed Vietnamese actor, Dustin Nguyen (“The Rebel”), steampunk, a boatload of swordplay and a heavy dose of fantasy? Well, you get “Once Upon a Time in Vietnam,” of course.
Throw Veronica Ngo (Ngo Thanh Van) in for a little added eye candy (sorry, no Johnny Tri Nguyen this time, ladies) and we basically have Vietnam’s first ever wu xia film.
This is also Dustin Nguyen’s directorial debut and, from the aesthetic, it certainly looks like he’s gone big. And, is it me, or is there somewhat of a 90’s Tsui Hark vibe in this trailer?
6. Man of Tai Chi
Love him or hate him, Keanu Reeves certainly proved he can pack a punch in “The Matrix Trilogy.”
Having worked closely with choreographer, Yuen Woo Ping, Reeves opted to cast one of his proteges, Tiger Chen, in his directorial debut, “Man of Tai Chi.”
While he delivers his usual wooden dialog in the trailer, the fight work is promising and, more importantly, Reeves has promised around forty minutes of action! For a film that runs only 105 minutes, that’s a pretty heavy dose of martial arts he’s offering.
To add some extra pizazz, he also cast Iko Uwais (“The Raid: Redemption”), Karen Mok and Simon Yam, making this feel very detached from being a typical Hollywood production.
So far, the film has seen a Chinese release so hopefully it will hit western theaters in the near future.
7. The Protector 2
After “Ong Bak 3” received mixed reviews, Tony Jaa took some time off to get married, have a baby and spend some time in a Buddhist temple clearing his head.
Next year sees him returning to the big screen in a sequel to 2005’s “The Protector” (“Tom Yom Goong”). This time he’s joined by Jeeja Yanin, Marrese Crump and The Rza in an oddly familiar tale about a missing elephant (I know, right?).
What’s slightly disheartening about this teaser trailer is that Jaa and choreographer, Panna Ritikrai, seem to have done away with the whole, “No wires, no CGI” gimmick of their earlier films, choosing instead to go for big special effects set pieces.
Though I’m sure we can expect some amazing one-on-one fights what with the talent on board.
Who can resist a film centered on Bruce Lee’s weapon of choice that incorporates the MMA styled fight choreography of Donnie Yen? “Nunchaku” has a lot going for it.
Unfortunately, it might never see the light of day for western audiences as the film was completed in 2012 and, so far, has only screened on Chinese television.
The director and star of the film is Dragon Chen, an unknown for the most part; though he seems to be a man heavily influenced by Bruce Lee as his previous film was titled “Jeet Kune Do.”
The action in the trailer looks brutal and the weapon work on display is seriously impressive. Let’s hope this eventually achieves cult status, increasing the likelihood of a western DVD release.
As well as these films, we can expect sequels to “The Raid: Redemption” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as Jackie Chan’s latest in his “Armour of God” series and, of course, Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster.”
So, share the wealth. What martial arts films are you excited to see over the upcoming year? Drop us a comment below!