The Noble Classics: VOL. 3

Actor, martial arts superstar and philanthropist Jet Li was an unfortunate no-show at Cannes last week where the cast rolled in on the Croisette on tanks to represent the upcoming PG-13 release of The Expendables 3. Nonetheless, despite continuing to deal with hyperthyroidism, the actor continues to do what he does best, and fans will soon find out more in director Wilson Yip's new film, tentatively titled Fengshen Yanyi (The Investiture Of The Gods).

In the meantime, our own Graeme Noble has a few picks in mind in case you've been longing for the golden days of Hong Kong action. And this is just a handful with more to come. Read on, and have a great weekend!

Bodyguard From Beijing – 4/5, a very entertaining movie with some great acting and good dramatic scenes. This is a very good Hong Kong movie but there is a lack of action. The only fight comes at the end, which is spoiled by wires. Don’t watch it for the Kung.

Style: Modern fighting, with some decent gunplay

When a businessman with close ties to the Chinese government is murdered, a member of the PLA security forces (Jet Li) is dispatched from Beijing to protect the sole witness, a rich businessman's girlfriend. The bodyguard's professional duty to protect the girl is soon complicated by romantic tension. As efforts to kill the witness increase, protector and protected must confront their feelings for one another.

Born To Defend – 3.5/5, Jet Li gives a great performance in this distasteful action romp. The westerners act like hooligans and they fight okay, but Jet Li performs some great moves and the end fight is choreographed well by Siu Ming.

Style: Kickboxing

Produced in Mainland China by Sil-Metropole, this action picture marked the first directorial work by international martial arts icon Jet Li. He also stars in the film as a young kung-fu expert who fights back against the heartless American soldiers routinely bullying the Chinese populace in the days after World War II (needless to say, the film's viewpoint is slanted in an extremely anti-Western direction bordering on agitprop). First beating one loud-mouthed sailor in a kickboxing contest, the valiant Li gives his prize money to the poor and becomes a rickshaw driver. The Americans destroy his rickshaw and trick Li into allowing himself to become a sparring partner for their fighting practice, a setup engineered with the aim of repeatedly beating the cocky Chinaman to a bloody pulp. The climax of the setup occurs in a driving torrential rain, as he is pitted against the huge Navy captain, and their battle results in a large-scale melee as Li improbably defeats his towering foe. To punish his impudence, the Americans then murder two of Li's friends and frame him for the slayings, setting up the hero's inevitable jailbreak and retaliatory triumph. The film's structure is aimed at portraying all the Americans as vicious sadists, so Li spends a majority of the 92-minute running time being savagely beaten, only to repeatedly come back for more and emerge victorious. Zhao Erkang co-stars with Song Jia and the hulking Kurt Roland Pettersson, whom one might suspect would get the better of Li in a real fight. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

Dr. Wai in The Scripture With No Words – 1.5/5, a pretty boring and silly movie and yet another wasted opportunity with Jet Li. There are two good fights which saves the movie, one where Jet shows sublime kicking skills and the other ‘fun scene’ with a chain. End fight is bad. 

Style: New wave kung

Chow Si-Kit is a novelist suffering from chronic writers block and plagued by marital problems - his wife is about to divorce him for being such a loser. He finds sanctuary in his fictional world where he is an archaeologist adventurer – repeatedly saving the day against the odds. Meanwhile, Shing is an eager young writer who befriends Chow Si-Kit and tries his best to support him in his marital troubles and help break his writer's block. When that effort is unsuccessful, he enlists the aid of Yvonne, a pretty young colleague, and together they begin to ghost write the adventure of Dr. Wai and the Scripture With No Words.

Dragon Fight – 4/5, a strange sort of movie but definitely is fun to watch. Stephen Chow in an early role looks slightly awkward but still shines. Jet Li’s fighting skills are impressive and his finale with Dick Wei features some terrific choreography, from Wei himself. 

Style: Solid kickboxing

Hong Kong filmmaker Billy Tang, best-known for the gruesome sex thrillers Red to Kill and Run and Kill, directed this well-cast, American-lensed martial-arts action film starring internationally renowned fighter Jet Li. Li plays Lee Kwok-lap, a famous acrobat with China's martial arts team who goes hunting for their aging ex-star Wong Wai. Wong has decided to defect while the team is at the San Francisco airport planning to return to China after an exhibition. During his search for Wong Wai, the acrobat misses his flight back home and is stranded in the United States, but things quickly get even worse as his wallet is found beneath the corpse of a police officer whom Wong killed, and Lee is implicated in the murder. Lee knows he is being railroaded and has no chance of beating the rap, so he breaks free from police custody and seeks shelter at the home of one of his biggest local fans, Yau (Stephen Chiau, in an uncharacteristic early role). While Lee is dealing with these problems, Wong is advancing in his criminal career, working for San Francisco crime lord Marco (Henry Fong). Wong starts reaching for more power than Marco is ready to relinquish, so he tells the police about a drug deal with which Wong is involved. This leads to a big shoot out which ends up with Yau making off with a large bag of cocaine which he then decides to sell in order to make some extra money. It's a bad idea, as it gives Wong the impression that Yau and Lee are working together, leading him to attempt having them both murdered. Some impressive martial arts choreographed by Dick Wei (who also co-stars as Wong Wai under the name "C.I. Tu") enlivens this standard actioner co-starring Nina Li. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

High Risk – 3/5, this is a good Wong Jing movie that actually make sense. Jet Li doesn’t star and only has one fight, which is good by the way. The finale involving Jacky Cheung and Billy Chow has some nice moments too even though its fairly comedic.

Style: Modern day fighting

This action parody is a Die Hard clone with an interesting twist. Kit (Jet Li) leaves the police force after the death of his family at the hands of a terrorist named "The Doctor." Kit becomes the bodyguard for Frankie (Jacky Cheung), a movie star who is famous for supposedly doing his own daring stuntwork. Frankie, a shameless send-up of action superstar Jackie Chan, turns out to be a drunken womanizer whose martial arts skills have waned; Kit secretly performs all of the actor's stunts. Frankie attends a gala event at a high-rise hotel when the Doctor shows up and takes hostages. While Frankie runs short of courage, it's up to Kit to confront his nemesis. Jet Li, whose serious action performances have often been contrasted to Jackie Chan's slapstick antics, is a perfect choice to play the "real thing" opposite Cheung's outrageous Chan caricature. It should be noted that the film's sharp jabs at Chan's onscreen credibility are funny and audacious, but also highly inaccurate. ~ Jonathan E. Laxamana, Rovi

Hitman - 4/5, a really good movie that is slick and features fine performances from Jet and Eric Tsang. Some good shoot-outs here but only 2 fights. The end fight is solid enough and Jet’s abilities shine through nicely. Simon Yam is menacing in this one!

Style: Modern action

Fu is a young mainland Chinese who has gone to Hong Kong to join a gang of Chinese to work as a hitman and make enough money to build his mother a house. While Fu is living a modest life as a wannabe hitman, a Japanese Yakuza boss was killed in Hong Kong by a righteous assassin called the King of Killers. The Yakuza put a bounty of $100 million on the King of Killers and every professional killer in south east Asia comes to Hong Kong to take the job. Fu bumps into a conman Lo while trying to get the job and is recruited by Lo who pretends to be an experienced killer. Lo buys Fu a new wardrobe so he can look the part of a professional killer and starts to ineptly train him. While trying to kill a target on a minor job, Fu proves that he is too kind hearted to kill innocent people and both Fu and Lo start to despair on their chances of finding and killing the King of Killers.

Written by FCSyndicate Asian Cinema contributor Graeme Noble (5/23/13)Noble is an acclaimed independent filmmaker and actor, and represents one-half of his award-winning independent film company, Noble Brothers Productions with brother John-William Noble. For more information on his work, visit


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