Posted On:12/25/2010 3:55pm
As we come to the real end of the decade (there was no Year Zero, folks!), letís take a moment to look back at these very interesting years. At the beginning of 2001, there was no Facebook, no Youtube; even Google had only been around for a couple years. Martial arts were still in the Karate Kid mentality, and hardly anyone had heard of this thing called Mixed Martial Arts or the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Indeed, it was a very different time, and so much has happened since then. Weíve seen the rise of a new sport in the public consciousness, and with it the action genre has been changed forever. However, there have always been and will always be those that look for a quick buck off of whatís fresh, and the resurgence of martial arts of all kinds in pop culture has led to some stunningly awful movies. Today we take a look back and reflect on these, my list for the Top Ten Most Terrible Martial Arts Movies of the Last Ten Years.
Never Back Down
This wasnít so much a terrible movie as it was simply offensive to me and MMA fans around the world. On its own, itís a decent sports/coming of age story with good production value. However, tying in the fastest growing sport in the world, one that glorifies violence and ruggedness, to a whiny teenage drama-rama full of kids that belong on The OC is such a retching fusion that it easily earns a place of infamy in the genre, and is a wonderfully awful place to kick off the list.
When I first heard about this film, I was genuinely excited to check it out. It sounded like a great throwback to the martial arts tournament movies of years past, full of colorful characters and style-on-style fights. It certainly was those things, but ultimately couldnít deliver the same energy or fun as its predecessors. Using real martial artists sounds great in theory, but stunt scenes are very different from real fights, making the actors seem awkward and clumsy on screen instead of skilled and dangerous. The film gave up on things like story or acting when right from the premise, so thereís nothing in that department either. Geochilmaru was a fine concept for a film, but unfortunately ended up unable to follow through on the idea.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and Dragonball: Evolution
Iím putting these two films together because theyíre essentially the same movie. Coming out within weeks of each other, they are both adaptations of very popular Japanese martial arts franchises, origin stories updated for a modern American audience. The source material for both stories have rich and detailed mythos to draw from, as well as incredible casts of fun and interesting supporting characters. Also, in both of the adaptations, the aforementioned mythos and characters are completely flushed down the toilet for new stories that have almost nothing in common with the originals. Itís hard to decide which of these films did more to betray their loyal fans than the other, so they both earn a spot as the eighth worst fight film this decade.
This is another film that failed to deliver on a promising concept. Rina Takeda is an attractive and promising young pop star, and has martial arts skills as a bonus. Making her the star of a fight film was a no-brainer, since combining martial arts and cute girls has been a staple of Japanese culture for generations. However, the execution was simply embarrassingly poor. With terrible stunt direction and horrific cinematography, what should have been a fun comic book style thrill ride instead became just an interminable stretch of boredom. It's hard to go wrong with such an easy formula, but they found a way to screw it up regardless. Count this one as a solid number seven on the list.
Jean Claude Van Damme was once on top of the world as one of the most famous action stars around. He was a household name, and everyone wanted him to be in their movies. Sadly, the Belgian doesnít have the drawing power that he once did, and has on multiple occasions tried to rejuvenate his film career with gritty dramas meant for the younger generation, I assume because he assumes thatís what will sell. In Hell is one of those films, and itís certainly hellish to watch. Itís a barebones plot that tries its hardest to portray Van Damme as a legitimate actor, but ultimately falls flat, much like the former starís career.
Ring of Death
This made-for-TV movie was created exclusively for the channel Spike TV, and is essentially a clone of In Hell, Undisputed, or any other prison-turned-underground-fighting story. Aside from the rather awful production values (which can at least be excused because of budget issues), the film itself is just unbelievably boring. The characters are bland, the story is dull, and the fights are typical flashy pseudo-MMA style punch and slam fests. Honestly, if youíre going to rip off other movies, youíd think that theyíd pick better source material to begin with.
Aussie Park Boyz
Itís hard to talk about this film. Very, very hard. To say that this is one of the worst films in the history of cinema might sound hyperbolic, but this is one of those times where the label is completely deserved. Itís not all bad, as the fights themselves can be fairly decent when they want to be, but everything else is such a shitstorm that it soon becomes an exercise in how best to stop from throwing your television out the window. Nothing makes sense, no one knows how to act, and it doesnít have nearly the kind of engagement with the audience as its inspiration, 1979ís The Warriors. Aussie Park Boyz is just a terrible attempt at filmmaking, and isnít even worth the cost of the disc its sold on.
Black Mask 2
Hong Kong, 2002
There are lots of poorly made sequels out there, but Black Mask 2 ranks among the worst in the cash-in category. The original only did marginally well both in Hong Kong and abroad, mostly due to Jet Liís rise in popularity in the late 1990s. The sequel had next to nothing to do with the original storyline, couldnít bring back Li to reprise his role, and has some of the worst production values outside of a SyFy original movie. Itís as if the producers had a plan to try and make some money with a new Jet Li film, but completely fell apart when he decided he had far better things to do.
Never Surrender (or any other Hector Echavarria film)
The reason for the addendum to this entry is simple: every Echavarria film plays out the exact same way. Usually written by, directed by, and starring the man himself, theyíre self-aggrandizing films about some great fighter who gets mixed up in an organized crime circuit and must fight his way out. They also are all awful in just about every aspect of film, from the terrible script, the eye-rolling acting, and the absolutely atrocious action. These are nothing but vehicles for Echavarria to indulge his own fantasies, and are simply shameful additions to the martial arts film genre.
Try to imagine, if you will, a film in which you made every mistake in the book. A film where the lighting was poor, the actors had no direction, the story was pointless, and the fights were embarrassing. That film would still be better than the horror story known as Razor Sharpe. In a world where even B and C list movies have some redeeming qualities to their production, this is the epitome of the legendary Z-grade film. This is the sort of film that wages psychological warfare against your mind; it is a testament to how even the most talentless hack can find a way to produce and distribute material, regardless of quality or affect on the audienceís psyche. In a decade filled with atrocious movies, this is surely the worst piece of cinema Iíve ever had the misfortune to come across.
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Posted On:12/25/2010 6:19pm
Style: Kenkojuku Karate, Judo
I liked In Hell and High Kick Girl and I don't like action or MA movies!
Posted On:12/25/2010 9:06pm
Style: In transition
You didn't even mention Djimon Honsou, you bastard!
(But yeah, Never Back Down did suck.)
I also finally watched Geochilmaru and while not spectacular, doesn't deserve a spot on this list. That one Irish kung fu movie should've taken that spot.
Posted On:12/25/2010 9:54pm
The Irish movie, Fatal Deviation, was made in 98, so wasn't eligible for the list. It would definitely be in the top 5 Worst of All Time, though. Thinking about it still gives me chills.
Posted On:12/26/2010 1:42am
'98? Huh. That's a damn shame. I'll go find something more deserving of the spot and report back.
edit: Here it is. This utter shitpile was erased from my memory, but now it's flooding back.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) starring Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu.
Holy ****, it was awful.
Posted On:12/26/2010 2:07am
yeah, the reputation precedes it. i haven't found it to watch yet, but i can imagine it ranks up there.
Posted On:12/26/2010 3:52am
Style: G-safe Krav Maga / TKD
Geochilmaru does not deserve to be on this list. Neither does High Kick Girl.
Posted On:12/26/2010 10:41am
Style: Kettles (MA hiatus).
Where's 'Fighting'? That makes Never Back Down look like Lawrence of Arabia.
All Out of Bubblegum
Posted On:12/26/2010 11:48am
I liked In Hell, actually.
There's no choice but to confront you, to engage you, to erase you. I've gone to great lengths to expand my threshold of pain. I will use my mistakes against you. There's no other choice.
When I Get Back
Posted On:12/26/2010 12:02pm
Originally Posted by Kovacs
Where's 'Fighting'? That makes Never Back Down look like Lawrence of Arabia.
I watched Fighting and thought "this is a piece of ****"...especially the opening fight where GI Joe takes a drinking fountain to the head and gets up and manages to win.
Then I read JP's review of the movie and it made me appreciate it more.
Movie Review of "Fighting" - No BS MMA and Martial Arts
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