MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES

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BedrockBrendan

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This thread is to recommend and post about martial arts movies.

Starting with Soul of the Sword. Made in 1978 and directed by Hua Shan, it stars Ti Lung, Ku Feng, Norman Chu, Lau Wai-Ling and Lin Chen-Chi. It also has an appearance by Lily Li Li-li. This movie is very dark, and at times gets into shocking territory (the main character rapes someone). However the shocking content, fit with the overall theme of the movie, which was highlighting the violent nature of the jianghu and the way the swordsman who trains for violence has difficulty leaving violence behind in normal situations. The fight scenes (mostly swordplay) were sharp, with a nice blend of stylized martial arts and swashbuckling style choreography. Also everything was pretty clear. You could see the actors full bodies in the shots, and there were some truly impressive movements and forms. The plot is about a swordsman named Sword King who kills a man in a duel (because the man wants to take his Sword King title). A young boy sees the fight and grows up obsessed with defeating Sword King (the boy grows up to be the Ti Lung character). When he gets his opportunity to take on Sword King, he falls in love with a woman, or seems to, and much of the plot involves the mental games the swordsmen play to undermine their foe's ability to fight effectively. There is a line in the movie that says something to the effect of 'when there are two-evenly matched swordsman, it takes but a breath of wind to shift the battle one way or another'. Another great line in the movie "There are three kinds people in this world: men, women and dead people. You don't look like a man to me!".

The movie is available on Prime.
 

Voros

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I'm planning on dipping in to the huge number of martial arts classics on Prime soon. House of of Traps will be first on my list...
 
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AsenRG

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This thread is to recommend and post about martial arts movies.

Starting with Soul of the Sword. Made in 1978 and directed by Hua Shan, it stars Ti Lung, Ku Feng, Norman Chu, Lau Wai-Ling and Lin Chen-Chi. It also has an appearance by Lily Li Li-li. This movie is very dark, and at times gets into shocking territory (the main character rapes someone). However the shocking content, fit with the overall theme of the movie, which was highlighting the violent nature of the jianghu and the way the swordsman who trains for violence has difficulty leaving violence behind in normal situations. The fight scenes (mostly swordplay) were sharp, with a nice blend of stylized martial arts and swashbuckling style choreography. Also everything was pretty clear. You could see the actors full bodies in the shots, and there were some truly impressive movements and forms. The plot is about a swordsman named Sword King who kills a man in a duel (because the man wants to take his Sword King title). A young boy sees the fight and grows up obsessed with defeating Sword King (the boy grows up to be the Ti Lung character). When he gets his opportunity to take on Sword King, he falls in love with a woman, or seems to, and much of the plot involves the mental games the swordsmen play to undermine their foe's ability to fight effectively. There is a line in the movie that says something to the effect of 'when there are two-evenly matched swordsman, it takes but a breath of wind to shift the battle one way or another'. Another great line in the movie "There are three kinds people in this world: men, women and dead people. You don't look like a man to me!".

The movie is available on Prime.
I'm taking this as a recommendation:smile:.
 

urbwar

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Some other good movies I've seen lately included God of War (about the Ming Empires battle against Japanese Pirates), Call of Heroes (set during the warlords era of the early 1900's), Drunken Fist Beggar So (which was made for HBO Asia). The first two are on Netflix, but I suggest watching them on KissAsian, as the Netflix versions have missing subtitles (as in people speak, and no subtitle appears for what they are saying). Beggar So I saw on KissAsian, and there are copies on Youtube as well

On the Roku Channel, I saw The Master, about the founder of Choy Lee Fut kung fu. I felt that one was well done

For older movies, Opium and the Kung Fu Master was really good was excellent, as was Legendary Weapons of China (featuring all three Liu brothers!). Little Dragon Maiden was good, but the end fight felt rushed. Young Vagabond was good too, and is another take on Beggar So. All of these appear to be on both Prime and Netflix.
 

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One of my current favourites is Master of the Flying Guillotine. It's got the classic elements - a master taking revenge for his dead students, a reluctant hero, a woman seeking justice for her murdered father, a tournament, a foreign mercenary with an unbeatable technique who has to be overcome by strategy, and wacky weapons (the flying guillotine in the title).

I watched it on Youtube. That version developed a delay in the subtitles halfway through, so I had to wait a couple of minutes between seeing the action and reading what the characters thought about it. I'm not sure if that made it better or worse...
 

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I watched it on Youtube. That version developed a delay in the subtitles halfway through, so I had to wait a couple of minutes between seeing the action and reading what the characters thought about it. I'm not sure if that made it better or worse...

A friend of mine watched a Hong Kong Kung Fu film from the 70s that had been dubbed and subtitled, but the two didn't match, as both worked from the original language, not from each other. He said it was surreal listening to English and seeing a different English translation appear on screen.
 

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Just finished watching Supreme Swordsman. Really excellent swordplay film
That's one of my favorites out of movies I have watched recently. I like the tonal shift midway through. We spend about half the movie mainly following the villain, and the movie has a relatively serious, grounded tone (by wuxia standards, at least). When the movie focuses on the actual hero, the movie shifts into a lighter, more fantastical tone.

At the mid-point, when the hero faces the villain for the first time, I casually glanced at the clock. It seemed like the movie should be ending. I don't mean that I was bored, simply that I felt like I had already gotten a pretty satisfying movie, so I was surprised there was so much time left. Then the scene with the grandfather came along, and the movie opened up into something new.
 

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I watched Web Of Death last night. That was a hoot!
Crossed well over into Kung Fu as magic, with masters shooting lightning from their hands, magical flowers and a glowing Kung Fu tarantula that roars like an elephant. There's also a 'dungeon' full of deadly traps, battles over pits of acid and a gang of thugs that spit fire.
Definitely one of the wilder wuxia movies I've seen.
 
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BedrockBrendan

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I watched Web Of Death last night. That was a hoot!
Crossed well over into Kung Fu as magic, with masters shooting lightning from their hands, magical flowers and a glowing Kung Fu tarantula that roars like an elephant.

That is one of my favorite films to show people because they are often so surprised by it. Also does a good job of pulling Jin Yong material from different stories together to make something very new.
 

urbwar

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I just finished Soul of the Sword. Wow, the lead character comes across as a dick (not just because he rapes someone). I felt the ending was a perfect one, as the only seemingly redeemable characters was Ho Lien and the King. The rest all deserve what they got!

Started Web of Death, which sadly is only dubbed on Prime
 

BedrockBrendan

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I just finished Soul of the Sword. Wow, the lead character comes across as a dick (not just because he rapes someone). I felt the ending was a perfect one, as the only seemingly redeemable characters was Ho Lien and the King. The rest all deserve what they got!

Started Web of Death, which sadly is only dubbed on Prime

I have Web of Death on Blu-ray but when I want to watch it, I often do so on prime. The dubs are bad, at times in an unintentionally humorous way, but it is such a visually interesting film, I kind of like not having to read the subs when I watch it (at this age, I have trouble absorbing text and visuals at the same moment). I've said this before but one of the things about Web of Death that stands out is how much it lends itself to more D&D style play if you are pulling inspiration for a campaign. I like to blend both character/situational elements with classic dungeon elements and this film is a solid mix of those things (between the trapped tomb, the headquarters, and the sect war, it has all he ingredients I like to use in a lengthy campaign).

In Soul of the Sword all the characters were pretty unlikeable. I was surprised how well it worked with such despicable characters. The movie Duel for Gold has a similar hateful eight type situation (in that the characters are all largely unlikeable/unsympathetic) and manages to pull it off too.

Unlikeable might be the wrong word. I liked the characters. They were interesting, but they were not people you'd want to have a beer with. I liked King of Swords, and I liked King of Swords and Lady of Three Moves all as characters; I just wouldn't want to know them. I agree on Ho Lien and the Sire character. I also think the old woman who scolded everyone seemed to be a bit of a moral anchor in an amoral martial world (in the podcast people were pointing out that no one seemed to like her, not even Ho Lien).
 

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I just finished Soul of the Sword. Wow, the lead character comes across as a dick (not just because he rapes someone). I felt the ending was a perfect one, as the only seemingly redeemable characters was Ho Lien and the King. The rest all deserve what they got!
I watched this yesterday. It seems debatable to me how redeemable the King of Swords is. In the plus column, he seems to go out of his way to give opponents the chance to walk away with their lives rather than kills. On the other hand...

In his effort to get under the main characters skin, he is the one that plants the idea about needing to get rid of Ho Lien in his head. While I was talking about the movie with Brendan on his podcast last night, I even began to wonder about the genuineness of his words to Nameless at the end. Was his last move just an attempt to poison Nameless' victory.

Even if he was genuine, does it actually say anything good about the King of Swords that he really liked a despicable character like Nameless

Then again, the fact that it is debatable is something I like about this movie. It never overexplains anything.

I also noticed a couple of musical cues that were really similar to Vertigo's soundtrack. I had to wonder if that was deliberate considering both are movies have a main character obsessing over a woman who looks just like a woman that died.
 

urbwar

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I watched this yesterday. It seems debatable to me how redeemable the King of Swords is. In the plus column, he seems to go out of his way to give opponents the chance to walk away with their lives rather than kills. On the other hand...

I meant the actual King, not the King of Swords. Should have been more clear on that part. I felt he was redeemable because he tried to convince Nameless to give up on the duel, work for him, and be happy with Ho Lien. He didn't want to see him (or King of Swords most likely) die. When he brought up the couple from the beginning of the film, you could see that had weighed on his conscience, and he wanted to repeat that happening again. But Nameless was too obsessed on beating King of Swords, he just wouldn't consider it. And thus the tragic consequences that followed
 

Baulderstone

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I meant the actual King, not the King of Swords. Should have been more clear on that part. I felt he was redeemable because he tried to convince Nameless to give up on the duel, work for him, and be happy with Ho Lien. He didn't want to see him (or King of Swords most likely) die. When he brought up the couple from the beginning of the film, you could see that had weighed on his conscience, and he wanted to repeat that happening again. But Nameless was too obsessed on beating King of Swords, he just wouldn't consider it. And thus the tragic consequences that followed
Ah, okay. He's a really intriguing character the seemed to be up to more than we were seeing. I want to give this movie another watch at some point to think through everyone's motivations.
 

urbwar

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Ah, okay. He's a really intriguing character the seemed to be up to more than we were seeing. I want to give this movie another watch at some point to think through everyone's motivations.

He did come across as more nefarious at the start of the film. I think it was the woman's suicide at the start of the film that brought the change that compelled him to try and convince Nameless to choose a different path.

Another funny thing is how easily I figured out when that one person turned out to be King of Swords. They were never around at the same time, and sometimes that other person acted a little fishy. Not too much, but enough to make him suspect.
 

urbwar

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I have Web of Death on Blu-ray but when I want to watch it, I often do so on prime. The dubs are bad, at times in an unintentionally humorous way, but it is such a visually interesting film, I kind of like not having to read the subs when I watch it (at this age, I have trouble absorbing text and visuals at the same moment). I've said this before but one of the things about Web of Death that stands out is how much it lends itself to more D&D style play if you are pulling inspiration for a campaign. I like to blend both character/situational elements with classic dungeon elements and this film is a solid mix of those things (between the trapped tomb, the headquarters, and the sect war, it has all he ingredients I like to use in a lengthy campaign).

I think Web of Death and Battle Wizard would make a great double feature. If the guy from Battle Wizard had eaten the spider along with the frog and the blood of the crimson snake, he would truly be invincible!

In Soul of the Sword all the characters were pretty unlikeable. I was surprised how well it worked with such despicable characters. The movie Duel for Gold has a similar hateful eight type situation (in that the characters are all largely unlikeable/unsympathetic) and manages to pull it off too.

Unlikeable might be the wrong word. I liked the characters. They were interesting, but they were not people you'd want to have a beer with. I liked King of Swords, and I liked King of Swords and Lady of Three Moves all as characters; I just wouldn't want to know them. I agree on Ho Lien and the Sire character. I also think the old woman who scolded everyone seemed to be a bit of a moral anchor in an amoral martial world (in the podcast people were pointing out that no one seemed to like her, not even Ho Lien).

I totally agree they were all interesting characters. They definitely had deep motivations. I totally got why Nameless was the way he was. It was his total dedication to being the best that led him to making some really bad decisions (mostly in how he treated Ho Lien). I'm sure we can agree though that there are many heroes in various Shaw Brothers movies where the "heroes" aren't likeable at times. Yes, they will always chose the right path in the end, but along the way, they stumble onto dirt trails off the main road before they get to their destination. I think that's why even today, so many of these films stand up; the characters are complex, with all kind of flaws that show that they are still human.
 

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He did come across as more nefarious at the start of the film. I think it was the woman's suicide at the start of the film that brought the change that compelled him to try and convince Nameless to choose a different path.

Another funny thing is how easily I figured out when that one person turned out to be King of Swords. They were never around at the same time, and sometimes that other person acted a little fishy. Not too much, but enough to make him suspect.
It wasn't that big a surprise who the King of Swords was, but I don't think that detracted from the movie much. That mystery was never really at the center of what made the movie interesting.

I mentioned in a previous post that some music cues reminded me of the Vertigo soundtrack, which seemed deliberate to me as both movies involve a main character obsessing over a women who looks identical to someone that died. I went back and found one of those parts.

Here is link to the exact part of the Vertigo soundtrack and continuing on for 11 seconds.

I can't link to the exact part of The Soul of the Sword, but the music cue begins at 1:08:55 on the Amazon Prime version of the movie. It's the scene where Ho Lien says the he took her away from her life for nothing, and it is like a dream.
I think Web of Death and Battle Wizard would make a great double feature. If the guy from Battle Wizard had eaten the spider along with the frog and the blood of the crimson snake, he would truly be invincible!
I really need to see Battle Wizard.
I totally agree they were all interesting characters. They definitely had deep motivations. I totally got why Nameless was the way he was. It was his total dedication to being the best that led him to making some really bad decisions (mostly in how he treated Ho Lien). I'm sure we can agree though that there are many heroes in various Shaw Brothers movies where the "heroes" aren't likeable at times. Yes, they will always chose the right path in the end, but along the way, they stumble onto dirt trails off the main road before they get to their destination. I think that's why even today, so many of these films stand up; the characters are complex, with all kind of flaws that show that they are still human.
On top of that, the Shaw Brothers movies can vary greatly in how happy or tragic the ending is, and you often don't have a clue which way a movie will go from the early portion. For example...

Web of Death really doesn't tip its hand in the early portion of the movie that is going end in tragedy. In fact, the scenes of the love interests meeting are directly taken from the meeting of Guo Jing and Huang Rang in Legend of the Condor Heroes, pushing expectation the other way.
 
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urbwar

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It wasn't that big a surprise who the King of Swords was, but I don't think that detracted from the movie much. That mystery was never really at the center of what made the movie interesting.

Oh I know. I was just surprised at how obvious they seemed to be making it. Only Nameless seemed clueless about it :grin:

I really need to see Battle Wizard.

You should; it has the hero facing off with a Gorilla!

On top of that, the Shaw Brothers movies can vary greatly in how happy or tragic the ending is, and you often don't have a clue which way a movie will go from the early portion. For example...

Web of Death really doesn't tip its hand in the early portion of the movie that is going end in tragedy. In fact, the scenes of the love interests meeting are directly taken from the meeting of Guo Jing and Huang Rang in Legend of the Condor Heroes, pushing expectation the other way.

I agree. That ended surprised me. I was wondering if they were going the Bride with White Hair route, where they all convince her love she's bad, and she goes bonkers. Instead they decided to go all Shakespeare instead :tongue:
 

BedrockBrendan

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I think Web of Death and Battle Wizard would make a great double feature. If the guy from Battle Wizard had eaten the spider along with the frog and the blood of the crimson snake, he would truly be invincible!

Web of Death always gets a positive reaction from people when I have them watch it. I think the central conceit of it is pretty cool as well. It would make an insane artifact in a campaign.

I love Gonzo wuxia, but for some reason Battle Wizard was hard for me to get into. A lot of people seem to really like it though. I watched it once and didn't have a positive reaction. Maybe I should see it again and see if I still feel the same way.

Some other gonzo wuxia I think really stands out is Holy Flame of the Martial World, as well as Buddha's Palm.
 

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I mentioned in a previous post that some music cues reminded me of the Vertigo soundtrack, which seemed deliberate to me as both movies involve a main character obsessing over a women who looks identical to someone that died. I went back and found one of those parts.

Here is link to the exact part of the Vertigo soundtrack and continuing on for 11 seconds.

I can't link to the exact part of The Soul of the Sword, but the music cue begins at 1:08:05 on the Amazon Prime version of the movie. It's the scene where Ho Lien says the he took her away from her life for nothing, and it is like a dream.

When I made this post, I wrote the wrong time for the music cue in Soul of the Sword. It is actually 1:08:55. I'm editing the original post.
 

urbwar

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Web of Death always gets a positive reaction from people when I have them watch it. I think the central conceit of it is pretty cool as well. It would make an insane artifact in a campaign.

I love Gonzo wuxia, but for some reason Battle Wizard was hard for me to get into. A lot of people seem to really like it though. I watched it once and didn't have a positive reaction. Maybe I should see it again and see if I still feel the same way.

Some other gonzo wuxia I think really stands out is Holy Flame of the Martial World, as well as Buddha's Palm.

I can see why you might not like Battle Wizard. I just felt it was absurd in a good way.

I totally agree the Spider would be an insane artifact, given what it could do

Both Buddha's Palm and Holy Flame are on Prime Video, so I think they will move up my list of films to see
 

BedrockBrendan

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I can see why you might not like Battle Wizard. I just felt it was absurd in a good way.

I totally agree the Spider would be an insane artifact, given what it could do

Both Buddha's Palm and Holy Flame are on Prime Video, so I think they will move up my list of films to see

The absurdity was fine. I think I just had trouble getting into the story for some reason. I had a similar reaction to Journey of the Doomed.

I definitely recommend both Buddha's Palm and Holy Flame of the Martial World. They are both pretty out there. I think Buddha's Palm had the biggest impact, so that is probably best watching first. But Holy Flame of the Martial World is one of my absolute favorite wuxia films (it is a bit on the weird side at times though).
 

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The Raid. When this came out in 2011, I had been watching Asian action movies for the better part of two decades. I had never seen anything like like it. Unparalleled fight choreography. This one set a new standard.



Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. Until The Raid came out, this was the one everyone was talking about. Stars the gravity-defying Tony Jaa, who is a joy to watch. No wires, just sheer athleticism and awesome fighting skills.



Redeemer. 2014 actioner starring Chilean martial artist and stuntman Marko Zaror, AKA, "The Latin Dragon". As is typicall for Marko's movies, this one is a mix of over-the-top melodrama and blistering action.



Marko's earlier Mirageman was basically a love letter to the 1970s live-action Spider-Man TV series.

 

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Speaking of Ong Bak, the director later did Chocolate:


Born to fight is a cool movie. There's a great fight in the beginning on top of moving 18 wheelers. But the end was insane, as an entire village, along with the protagonists, fight against an army of terrorists planning to destroy the capital of Thailand with a nuke! You have people using soccer balls to knock bad guys out of towers and stuff. Plus the usual kick ass martial arts fights

 

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Speaking of Ong Bak, the director later did Chocolate:


Born to fight is a cool movie. There's a great fight in the beginning on top of moving 18 wheelers. But the end was insane, as an entire village, along with the protagonists, fight against an army of terrorists planning to destroy the capital of Thailand with a nuke! You have people using soccer balls to knock bad guys out of towers and stuff. Plus the usual kick ass martial arts fights


Born To Fight is great fun. It takes its title from an earlier movie by Panna Rittikrai. The earlier version is a wonderful example of low budget, nutso 1980s Thai cinema.



District B-13 is a fun, campy French action movie that incorporates martial arts, Parkour and gunplay.

 

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Love District B-13! Still haven't seen the sequel yet :sad:
 

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Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. Until The Raid came out, this was the one everyone was talking about. Stars the gravity-defying Tony Jaa, who is a joy to watch. No wires, just sheer athleticism and awesome fighting skills.

I was fortunate to be working at a Thai restaurant when this came out in the US, and had the benefit of watching it with someone who spoke Thai. A lot of the humor in the movie revolves around one of the characters switching in and our of a more urban dialect to appear more sophisticated and deny his roots. Tom-Yum-Goong (The Protector) was pretty good as well. The other Ong-Bak movies are entertaining but so different from the first one.
 

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I just finished The Magic Blade tonight (which Brendan talked about on his podcast). I enjoyed it. I like how the main protagonist's sword had a pommel much like a tonfa, and that the sound effects when he used it were so different than the sound all the other swords made. The Peacock Dart was a pretty cool weapon too
 

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The Raid. When this came out in 2011, I had been watching Asian action movies for the better part of two decades. I had never seen anything like like it. Unparalleled fight choreography. This one set a new standard.

The Raid was good, but I felt it was a bit boring after a while.
 

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The Raid was good, but I felt it was a bit boring after a while.

Yeah, it is kind of hard to build any sense of suspense when it seems like the protagonist can take an unlimited amount of damage without being affected.
 

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We did a podcast discussion of Bloody Parrot tonight: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-t9d4n-a43f7b

Unusual wuxia/horror/mystery movie. Made in 1981 and directed by Hua Shan. It stars Jason Pai Piao. Atmospheric with a lot of nudity and a bit of gore. Great characters, great fights, some truly memorable moments. I really like this one. It is a bit confusing though.
 

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Yeah, it is kind of hard to build any sense of suspense when it seems like the protagonist can take an unlimited amount of damage without being affected.

But that is pretty common in all martial arts action movies. It often feels kind of arbitrarily decided when the character has taken enough to actually drop. I do recall one scene in the Raid that seemed to go on too long in terms of the two guys wailing on each other though. I saw it pretty late (think I managed to catch it about 2 years ago). I quite enjoyed it.

Another recent one worth checking out in my view is Mrs. K with Kara Hui. I don't think it was the greatest movie but it was entertaining and I liked how it dealt with this issue in particular. One of the few movies where you see the characters get tired and gas out during fights in a way that feels plausible.
 

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South Africa used legit martial artists to choreograph a couple of schlocky yet satisfying 1970s actioners:

Kill Or Be Killed
Kill And Kill Again, a loose sequel. Features a big black dude who's afraid to fly and a crazy dude- a few years before The A*Team. Also has a nifty bullet-time shot, that used plexiglass and ingenuity where The Matrix would need CGI decades later.
 

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South Africa used legit martial artists to choreograph a couple of schlocky yet satisfying 1970s actioners:

Kill Or Be Killed
Kill And Kill Again, a loose sequel. Features a big black dude who's afraid to fly and a crazy dude- a few years before The A*Team. Also has a nifty bullet-time shot, that used plexiglass and ingenuity where The Matrix would need CGI decades later.

Kill Or Be Killed has a Rifftrax episode on it.
 
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Just finished Buddha's Palm tonight before work. Pretty cool. Loved the dragonish Dameng. And it's got a lightsaber of sorts, so that was cool.
 
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