Gun fu, a portmanteau of gun and kung fu (also known as gun kata, bullet ballet and gymnastic gunplay), is a fictional style of sophisticated close-quarters Gunfight resembling a martial arts battle played out with firearms instead of traditional weapons. It can be seen in Hong Kong action cinema and in American films influenced by it.
The focus of gun fu is both style and the usage of firearms in ways that they were not designed to be used. Shooting a gun from each hand (usually paired with jumping to the side at the same time), shots from behind the back, as well as the use of guns as melee weapons are all common. Other moves can involve shotguns, submachine guns, rocket launchers, and just about anything else that can be worked into a cinematic shot. It is often mixed with hand-to-hand combat maneuvers.
Gun fu has become a staple factor in modern action films due to its visually appealing nature (regardless of its actual practicality in a real-life combat situation). This is a contrast to American action movies of the 1980s which focused more on heavy weaponry and outright brute-force in firearm-based combat.
Director John Woo originated the style in the Hong Kong film A Better Tomorrow in 1986. The film launched the "heroic bloodshed" genre in Hong Kong, and gun fu action sequences became a regular feature in many of the subsequent heroic bloodshed films. John Woo continued to make several classic heroic bloodshed films, all featuring gun fu, and all starring leading man Chow Yun-fat.
Anthony Leong wrote of the gunfights in A Better Tomorrow,
Before 1986, Hong Kong cinema was firmly rooted in two genres: the martial arts film and the comedy. Gunplay was not terribly popular because audiences had considered it boring, compared to fancy kung-fu moves or graceful swordplay of the wu shu epics. What moviegoers needed was a new way to present gunplay—to show it as a skill that could be honed, integrating the acrobatics and grace of the traditional martial arts. And that's exactly what John Woo did. Using all of the visual techniques available to him (tracking shots, dolly-ins, slo-mo), Woo created beautifully surrealistic action sequences that were a 'guilty pleasure' to watch. There is also intimacy found in the gunplay—typically, his protagonists and antagonists will have a profound understanding of one another and will meet face-to-face, in a tense Mexican standoff where they each point their weapons at one another and trade words.
Woo saw gunfights in musical terms: His primary conceit was the shootout as dance number, with great attention paid to choreography, the movement of both actors within the frame. He loved to send his shooters flying through the air in surprising ways, far more poetically than in any real-life scenario. He frequently diverted to slow motion and he specialized in shooting not merely to kill, but to riddle—his shooters often blast their opponents five and six times.
Other Hong Kong directors also began using gun fu sequences in films that were not strictly heroic bloodshed films, such as Wong Jing's God of Gamblers (1989). There were several heroic bloodshed films that did not feature gun fu, but opted for more realistic combat, such as Ringo Lam's City on Fire (1987).
The popularity of John Woo's films, and the heroic bloodshed genre in general, in the U.S. helped give the gun fu style greater visibility.
One classic gun fu move consists of reloading two pistols simultaneously by releasing the empty magazines, pointing the guns to the ground, dropping two fresh magazines out of one's jacket sleeves, or strapped to one's legs, into the guns, and then carrying on shooting. In Equilibrium (2002) the law enforcement responsible for handling "Sense Crime" are trained in gun kata to gain an advantage in their raids on armed opponents. In the film Bulletproof Monk (2003), The Monk With No Name (portrayed by Chow Yun-fat) empties two pistols, ejects the magazines and spins to kick the empty magazines at his assailants. The style is also featured (albeit in a small way and with the assistance of gadgets) in the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies. In Wanted (2008), assassins belonging to The Fraternity possess the skill of "bending" bullets around obstacles; in a gunfight early in the film, one assassin knocks another bullet out of the air with his own round. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney) reloads his handguns by throwing them into the air and catching them with the magazines he's holding in his hands.
In the 2010 film Kick-Ass, the character Hit Girl, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, frequently uses gun fu. In the 2012 film Django Unchained, the climactic shootout in Candieland is inspired by John Woo, replicating scenes from The Killer shot-by-shot. The 2013 G.I. Joe: Retaliation also featured gun fu in the climactic fight between Roadblock and Firefly. Gun fu is also featured heavily in the 2014 film John Wick and its sequel, as well as the 2015 film Kingsman: The Secret Service. In the 2017 CGI film Resident Evil: Vendetta, Chris Redfield and Glenn Arias engaged in a gun fu fighting sequence.
Gun fu/gun kata also appeared in various video games:
Gun Fu is also the name of a series of comic books by Howard M. Shum and Joey Mason, about a Hong Kong police officer in the 1930s who employs a combination of gun-play and martial arts. In the Iron Fist comic books, the character Orson Randall uses his Iron Fist power with his two fire-arms, which a colleague jokingly refers to as "Gun-Fu".
In the Buffyverse role-playing games, gun fu is the name for the firearms skill, but this is more likely meant to be humorous rather than to imply characters practice an actual firearm-based martial art.
In the Ninjas and Superspies supplement Mystic China, gun fu is the Triad assassin training, and is a martial arts skill that can be available to player characters. It primarily emphasizes the use of paired 9mm pistols.
In the Japanese series Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, DekaRed is specifically mentioned as a master of gun fu technique, which in the series is called as "Juu Kun Do" (jaa is the Japanese word for 'gun'). As a result, the mecha for the series, Dekaranger Robo, is also sometimes shown using gun fu. The American adaptation of the series, Power Rangers S.P.D., also shows the Red Ranger and the Delta Squad Megazord using the same technique, though that was more because of the source material - the S.P.D. Red Ranger isn't specifically mentioned as being a master of gun fu.
In the anime Mazinkaizer SKL, Ryou Magami (one of the two pilots of the titular Mazinkaiser) uses gun fu as his primary style of combat as he wields the Breast Triggers, a pair of handguns which store on Mazinkaiser's chest. Magami's fight scenes contain several visual homages to the film Equilibrium, including a scene in the first episode where Mazinkaiser performs the signature pose of the Grammaton Clerics.
The GURPS roleplaying system has a Gun-Fu supplement, written by S.A. Fisher, Sean Punch, and Hans-Christian Vortisch.
A Better Tomorrow (Chinese: 英雄本色; Jyutping: Jing1 hung4 bun2 sik1; literally: 'True Colors of a Hero') is a 1986 Hong Kong action film directed by John Woo, and starring Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-fat. The film had a profound influence on the Hong Kong film industry, and later on an international scale. It was a landmark film, credited with setting the template for the heroic bloodshed genre, which was considerably influential in Hong Kong action cinema, and later Hollywood.Although it was produced with a tight budget, and was relatively unknown until it went on screen (due to virtually no advertising), it broke Hong Kong's box office record and went on to become a blockbuster in Asia. It is highly regarded, ranking #2 in the Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures. Its success also ensured the sequel A Better Tomorrow II, also directed by Woo, and A Better Tomorrow 3: Love & Death in Saigon, a prequel directed by Tsui Hark.
Although Ti Lung was the film's lead actor, co-star Chow Yun-fat's breakout performance outshined him, solidifying the latter's status as one of the top superstars in the Hong Kong film industry. Chow's character "Mark Gor" was imitated by many fans even decades after the film's release.A Hero Never Dies
A Hero Never Dies (Chinese: 真心英雄; pinyin: Zhen xin ying xiong; Cantonese Yale: Chan sam ying hung; literal title: True Heart Hero) is a 1998 Hong Kong action crime drama, and the first Milkyway Image film to be directed by Johnnie To.
Starring Leon Lai and Lau Ching-wan, A Hero Never Dies is a heroic bloodshed tale centering on the friendship and rivalry of two Triads in the midst of a gang war. The film has often been compared to the 1986 Hong Kong film A Better Tomorrow as both men wind up being betrayed by their bosses.Action Jackson (2014 film)
Action Jackson is a 2014 Indian Hindi action thriller film directed by Prabhu Deva and produced by Gordhan Tanwani and Sunil Lulla. It features Ajay Devgn in dual roles, alongside Sonakshi Sinha, Yami Gautam and Manasvi Mamgai as the female leads. Kunaal Roy Kapur appears in a supporting role with Anandaraj portraying the main antagonist. Prabhu Deva and Ajay Devgn have paired for the first time with this film. Action Jackson released on 5 December 2014.Crocodile Hunter (film)
Crocodile Hunter (專釣大鱷) is a 1989 Hong Kong action comedy film written and directed by Wong Jing, and starring Andy Lau, Alex Man, and Sandra Ng.Desperado (film)
Desperado is a 1995 American neo-Western action film written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez. A sequel to the 1992 film El Mariachi, it is the second installment in Robert Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy. It stars Antonio Banderas as the mariachi who seeks revenge on the drug lord who killed his lover. The film was screened out of competition at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the final part of the trilogy, was released in 2003. Desperado grossed $25.4 million in the United States.Equilibrium (film)
Equilibrium is a 2002 American dystopian science fiction action film written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, and starring Christian Bale, Emily Watson, and Taye Diggs.
The film follows John Preston (Bale), an enforcement officer in a future in which both feelings and artistic expression are outlawed and citizens take daily injections of drugs to suppress their emotions. After accidentally missing a dose, Preston begins to experience emotions, which makes him question his own morality and moderate his actions while attempting to remain undetected by the suspicious society in which he lives. Ultimately, he aids a resistance movement using advanced martial arts, which he was taught by the regime he is helping to overthrow.Face/Off
Face/Off is a 1997 American science fiction action film directed by John Woo, written by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, and starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. Travolta plays an FBI agent and Cage plays a terrorist, sworn enemies who assume each other's physical appearance.The first Hollywood film in which Woo was given major creative control, Face/Off earned critical acclaim for its acting performances (especially Cage and Travolta), stylized action sequences, John Powell's musical score, emotional depth, originality, humor, direction and stunts. It is often cited to be Woo's best Hollywood film. A commercial success, the film grossed $245 million worldwide and serves as the 11th highest-grossing film of 1997. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Sound Effects Editing (Mark Stoeckinger and Per Hallberg) at the 70th Academy Awards.Family (2006 film)
Family (also known as Family – Ties of Blood) is a 2006 Indian gangster film directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. The film features Amitabh Bachchan, Aryeman Ramsay, Akshay Kumar and Bhumika Chawla in lead roles. It was released on 12 January 2006.Fulltime Killer
Fulltime Killer (Chinese: 全职杀手) is a 2001 Hong Kong action film produced and directed by Johnnie To, and also written, produced and directed by Wai Ka-fai, and also produced by and starring Andy Lau. The film was released in the Hong Kong on 3 August 2001.
The film is based on Pang Ho-cheung's novel of the same name. It is informally known by Hong Kong English title You & I.God of Gamblers II
God of Gamblers II (Chinese: 賭俠; Cantonese Yale: Dou Hap; literally: 'Knight of Gambling') is a 1990 Hong Kong action comedy film written and directed by Wong Jing. It stars Andy Lau as Little Knife, Stephen Chow as the Saint of Gamblers, and Ng Man-Tat as Blackie Tat. This movie is a sequel to both God of Gamblers, which included Lau's character, and to All for the Winner, which starred Chow and Ng. This film should not be confused with God of Gamblers Returns, also released as God of Gamblers 2, and in essence the true sequel to the original God of Gamblers.High Risk (1995 film)
High Risk, also known in the United States as Meltdown, is a 1995 Hong Kong action comedy film written, produced and directed by Wong Jing and starring Jet Li, Jacky Cheung, Chingmy Yau, Charlie Yeung, Billy Chow, Kelvin Wong and Valerie Chow. Corey Yuen serves as the film's fight choreographer. This was Kelvin Wong's final film appearance, who retired from acting, until his death 15 years later.
The film is a parody of some of Hollywood's most influential action films, such as Die Hard and Speed. It also gained controversy for spoofing Jackie Chan, who was, in turn, offended by the satire.John Wick (film)
John Wick (retrospectively known as John Wick: Chapter 1) is a 2014 American neo-noir action thriller film directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad. It stars Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, and Willem Dafoe. It is the first installment in the John Wick film series.
The story focuses on John Wick (Reeves), searching for the men who broke into his home, stole his vintage car and killed his puppy, which serves as a memento of his recently deceased wife (Moynahan). Stahelski and David Leitch directed the film together, though only Stahelski was credited.Kolstad had completed the screenplay in 2012 and further developed it for Thunder Road Pictures. The film was produced by Basil Iwanyk of Thunder Road Pictures, Leitch, Eva Longoria, and Michael Witherill. It marks Stahelski and Leitch's directorial debut as a team after multiple separate credits as second-unit directors and stunt coordinators. They previously worked with Reeves as stunt doubles on The Matrix trilogy.Stahelski and Leitch's approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for anime and martial arts films. The film used fight choreographers and gun fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema. The film also pays homage to works such as John Woo's The Killer, Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge and Le Samouraï, John Boorman's Point Blank, and the spaghetti western films.The film was met with positive reviews, with critics calling it one of Reeves' best performances and one of the best action films of 2014. It grossed $88 million worldwide against a production budget of $20 million. Two sequels, John Wick: Chapter 2, and John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, were released on February 2017 and May 2019 respectively, both to an equal critical and commercial success. It is also the only film in the series to be distributed by Summit Entertainment, as the other films are distributed by Lionsgate Films.Just Heroes
Just Heroes (Chinese: 義膽群英) is a 1989 Hong Kong crime film, directed by John Woo and Wu Ma. The film stars Danny Lee, David Chiang and Stephen Chow.Legacy of Rage
Legacy of Rage (Chinese: 龍在江湖) is a 1986 Hong Kong action film directed by Ronny Yu, starring Brandon Lee, Michael Wong, Regina Kent and also features a cameo appearance by Bolo Yeung who appeared in Brandon's father, Bruce Lee's, last film Enter the Dragon. This was Brandon Lee's first leading role in a film (he made his acting debut with a supporting role in the television film Kung Fu: The Movie earlier that year) and the only Hong Kong production he starred in.The Big Heat (1988 film)
The Big Heat (城市特警) is a 1988 Hong Kong action film starring Waise Lee and Joey WongThe Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Reloaded is a 2003 science fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis. It is the first sequel to The Matrix, and the second installment in The Matrix trilogy. Reloaded premiered on May 7, 2003, in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, and went on general release by Warner Bros. in North American theaters on May 15, 2003, and around the world during the latter half of that month. It was also screened out of competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. The video game Enter the Matrix, which was released on May 15, and a collection of nine animated shorts, The Animatrix, which was released on June 3, supported and expanded the storyline of the film. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $742.1 million worldwide. The Matrix Revolutions, which completes the story, was released six months after Reloaded, in November 2003.The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix Revolutions is a 2003 science fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis. It was the third installment of The Matrix trilogy, released six months following The Matrix Reloaded. The film was released simultaneously in 60 countries on November 5, 2003. While it is the final film in the series, the Matrix storyline is continued in The Matrix Online. It was the first live-action feature film to be released in both regular and IMAX theaters at the same time.
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