Hong Kong action cinema

Hong Kong action cinema is the principal source of the Hong Kong film industry's global fame. It combines elements from the action film, as codified by Hollywood, with Chinese storytelling, aesthetic traditions and filmmaking techniques, to create a culturally distinctive form that nevertheless has a wide transcultural appeal. In recent years, the flow has reversed somewhat, with American and European action films being heavily influenced by Hong Kong genre conventions.

The first Hong Kong action films favoured the wuxia style, emphasizing mysticism and swordplay, but this trend was politically suppressed in the 1930s and replaced by kung fu films that depicted more down-to-earth unarmed martial arts, often featuring folk hero Wong Fei Hung. Post-war cultural upheavals led to a second wave of wuxia films with highly acrobatic violence, followed by the emergence of the grittier kung fu films for which the Shaw Brothers studio became best known.

The 1970s saw a resurgence in kung fu films during the rise and sudden death of Bruce Lee. He was succeeded in the 1980s by Jackie Chan—who popularized the use of comedy, dangerous stunts, and modern urban settings in action films—and Jet Li, whose authentic wushu skills appealed to both eastern and western audiences. The innovative work of directors and producers like Tsui Hark and John Woo introduced further variety (for example, gunplay, triads, heroic bloodshed, and the supernatural). An exodus by many leading figures to Hollywood in the 1990s coincided with a downturn in the industry.

Early martial arts films

The signature contribution to action cinema from the Chinese-speaking world is the martial arts film, the most famous of which were developed in Hong Kong. The genre emerged first in Chinese popular literature. The early 20th century saw an explosion of what were called wuxia novels (often translated as "martial chivalry"), generally published in serialized form in newspapers. These were tales of heroic, sword-wielding warriors, often featuring mystical or fantasy elements. This genre was quickly seized on by early Chinese films, particularly in the movie capital of the time, Shanghai. Starting in the 1920s, wuxia titles, often adapted from novels (for example, 1928's The Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery and its eighteen sequels) were hugely popular and the genre dominated Chinese film for several years.[1]

The boom came to an end in the 1930s, caused by official opposition from cultural and political elites, especially the Kuomintang government, who saw it as promoting superstition and violent anarchy.[2] Wuxia filmmaking was picked up in Hong Kong, at the time a British colony with a highly liberal economy and culture and a developing film industry. The first martial arts film in Cantonese, the dominant Chinese spoken language of Hong Kong, was The Adorned Pavilion (1938).

Postwar martial arts cinema

Scene from the wuxia film Buddha's Palm (1964). The magic qi rays are created using crude hand-drawn animation.

By the late 1940s, upheavals in mainland China—the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and the victory of the Communist Party of China—had shifted the centre of Chinese language filmmaking to Hong Kong. The industry continued the wuxia tradition in Cantonese B movies and serials, although the more prestigious Mandarin-language cinema generally ignored the genre. Animation and special effects drawn directly on the film by hand were used to simulate the flying abilities and other preternatural powers of characters; later titles in the cycle included The Six-Fingered Lord of the Lute (1965) and Sacred Fire, Heroic Wind (1966).[2]

A counter-tradition to the wuxia films emerged in the kung fu movies that were also produced at this time. These movies emphasized more "authentic", down-to-earth and unarmed combat over the swordplay and mysticism of wuxia. The most famous exemplar was real-life martial artist Kwan Tak Hing; he became an avuncular hero figure to at least a couple of generations of Hong Kongers by playing historical folk hero Wong Fei Hung in a series of roughly one hundred movies, from The True Story of Wong Fei Hung (1949) through to Wong Fei Hung Bravely Crushing the Fire Formation (1970).[3] A number of enduring elements were introduced or solidified by these films: the still-popular character of "Master Wong"; the influence of Chinese opera with its stylized martial arts and acrobatics; and the concept of martial arts heroes as exponents of Confucian ethics.[4]

"New School" wuxia

In the second half of the 1960s, the era's biggest studio, Shaw Brothers, inaugurated a new generation of wuxia films, starting with Xu Zenghong's Temple of the Red Lotus (1965), a remake of the 1928 classic. These Mandarin productions were more lavish and in colour; their style was less fantastical and more intense, with stronger and more acrobatic violence. They were influenced by imported samurai movies from Japan and by the wave of "New School" wuxia novels by authors like Jin Yong and Liang Yusheng that started in the 1950s.[5]

The New School wuxia wave marked the move of male-oriented action films to the centre of Hong Kong cinema, which had long been dominated by female stars and genres aimed at female audiences, such as romances and musicals. Even so, during the 1960s female action stars like Cheng Pei-pei and Connie Chan Po-chu were prominent alongside male stars, such as former swimming champion Jimmy Wang Yu, and they continued an old tradition of female warriors in wuxia storytelling. The signature directors of the period were Chang Cheh with One-Armed Swordsman (1967) and Golden Swallow (1968) and King Hu with Come Drink with Me (1966). Hu soon left Shaw Brothers to pursue his own vision of wuxia with independent productions in Taiwan, such as the enormously successful Dragon Inn (1967, aka Dragon Gate Inn). Chang stayed on and remained the Shaws' prolific star director into the early 1980s.

The 1970s kung fu wave

The early 1970s saw wuxia giving way to a new, grittier and more graphic (and Mandarin-speaking) iteration of the kung fu movie, which came to dominate through the decade and into the early 1980s. Seriously trained martial artists such as Ti Lung and Gordon Liu became some of the top stars as increasing proportions of running times were devoted to combat set-pieces. Chinese Boxer (1970), starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, is widely credited with launching the kung fu boom. But remaining at the vanguard, at least initially, were Shaw Brothers and director Chang Cheh. Chang's Vengeance (1970) was another of the first trendsetters and his dozens of contributions included The Boxer from Shantung (1972), Five Deadly Venoms (1978) and Crippled Avengers (1979). Kung fu cinema was particularly influenced by Chang's concern with his vision of masculine values and male friendship;[6] the female warrior figures who had been prominent in late 1960s wuxia work were sidelined, with prominent exceptions such as the popular Angela Mao.

Chang's only competitor as the genre's most influential filmmaker was his long-time action choreographer, Lau Kar Leung (aka Liu Chia Liang in Mandarin). Lau began directing his own movies for the Shaw brothers in 1975 with The Spiritual Boxer, a progenitor of the kung fu comedy. In subsequent titles like Executioners from Shaolin (1977), The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), and Legendary Weapons of China (1982), Lau emphasized the traditions and philosophy of the martial arts and strove to give onscreen fighting greater authenticity and ever greater speed and intricacy.[3]

The kung fu boom was partly fueled by enormous international popularity, and not just in East Asia. In the West, kung fu imports, dubbed and often recut and retitled, shown as "B" films in urban theaters and on television, made Hong Kong film widely noticed, although not widely respected, for the first time. African-Americans particularly embraced the genre (as exemplified by the popular hip-hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan) perhaps as an almost unprecedented source of adventure stories with non-white heroes, who furthermore often displayed a strong streak of racial and/or nationalistic pride.[7]

The popularity of these movies in North America would continue into the 1980s when ninja movies were introduced. In popular culture, the films of this era were colloquially known as Kung Fu Theater or Black Belt Theater, names that many independent stations used for their weekly airing slot.

Bruce Lee

No single figure was more responsible for this international profile than Bruce Lee, an American-born, Hong Kong-raised martial artist and actor. Lee completed just four movies before his death at the age of 32: The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon (both 1972), and Enter the Dragon (1973). Eastern film historian Patrick Macias ascribes his success to "(bringing) the warrior spirit of old into the present day... developing his own fighting style... and possessing superhuman charisma".[8] His first three movies broke local box office records and were successful in much of the world. The English-language Enter the Dragon, the first-ever US-Hong Kong co-production, grossed about US$200 million worldwide, making it the most internationally successful film from that region up to then. Furthermore, his decision at the outset to work for young, upstart studio Golden Harvest, rather than accept the Shaws' notoriously tightfisted standard contract, was a factor in Golden Harvest's meteoric rise and Shaw's eventual decline.[3][9]

Following Lee's untimely death, a cottage industry of faux Lee movies emerged, featuring either performers who adopted similar screen names (Bruce Li, Bruce Lai, etc.), or outtake footage of Lee, or some combination of both. The fad did little to engender mainstream respect in the West for the relatively new phenomenon of martial arts cinema. But despite such posthumous treatment, Lee continues to cast a long shadow over Hong Kong film.

Jackie Chan and the kung fu comedy

The only Chinese performer who has ever rivalled Bruce Lee's global fame is Jackie Chan. Like many kung fu performers of the day, Chan came out of training in Peking opera and started in film as a stuntman, notably in some of Lee's vehicles. He was groomed for a while by The Big Boss and Fist of Fury director Lo Wei as another Lee clone, in several movies including New Fist of Fury (1976), with little success. But in 1978, Chan teamed up with action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping on Yuen's directorial debut, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. The resulting blend of physical comedy and kung fu action provided Chan with his first hit and the rudiments of what would become his signature style. Chan's follow-up movie with Yuen, Drunken Master (also 1978), and his directorial debut, The Fearless Hyena (1979), were also giant hits and cemented his popularity.[3]

Sammo Hung white eyebrows
Sammo Hung as a wise master in Tsui Hark's Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain from 1983. The white eyebrows speak of extraordinary power on the part of the character.

Although these films were not the first kung fu comedies, they launched a vogue that helped reinvigorate the waning kung fu genre. Especially notable in this regard were two of Chan's childhood Peking Opera School classmates, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, who also made careers of this specialty, sometimes co-starring with Chan. Hung, noted for the seeming paradox of his overweight physique and physical agility, also made a name for himself as a director and action choreographer from early on, with titles like Enter the Fat Dragon (1978).

Reinventing action cinema

Chan's clowning may have helped extend the life of the kung fu wave for several years. Nevertheless, he became a star towards the end of the boom, and would soon help move the colony towards a new type of action. In the 1980s, he and many colleagues would forge a slicker, more spectacular Hong Kong pop cinema that would successfully compete with the post-Star Wars summer blockbusters from America.

Jackie Chan and the modern martial arts film

In 1982, Jackie Chan began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences in Dragon Lord,[10] which featured a pyramid fight scene that holds the record for the most takes required for a single scene, with 2900 takes,[11] and the final fight scene where he performs various stunts, including one where he does a back flip off a loft and falls to the lower ground.[12] By 1983, Chan branched out into action films which, though they still used martial arts, were less limited in scope, setting and plot. His first film in this vein, Project A, saw the official formation of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and added elaborate, dangerous stunts to the fights and typical slapstick humor (at one point, Chan falls from the top of a clock tower through a series of fabric canopies). The new formula helped Project A gross over HK$19 million.[13]

Chan continued to take the approach – and the budgets – to new heights in hits like Police Story (1985). Here was Chan dangling from a speeding bus, sliding down a pole covered with exploding light bulbs, and destroying large parts of a shopping centre and a hillside shantytown. The 1988 sequel called for explosions on a scale similar to many Hollywood movies and seriously injured leading lady Maggie Cheung – an occupational risk Chan had already grown used to. Thus Jackie Chan created the template for the contemporary urban action-comedy of the 1980s, combining cops, kung fu and all the body-breaking potential of the modern city with its glass, metal and speeding vehicles.[14]

Tsui Hark and Cinema City

Chan's move towards larger-scale action films was paralleled by work coming out of Cinema City, the production company established in 1980 by comedians Raymond Wong, Karl Maka and Dean Shek. With movies like the spy spoof Aces Go Places (1982) and its sequels, Cinema City helped make modern special effects, James Bond-type gadgets and big vehicular stunts part of the industry vernacular.[15] Director/producer Tsui Hark had a hand in shaping the Cinema City style while employed there from 1981–1983[9] but went on to make an even bigger impact after leaving. In such movies as Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) and A Chinese Ghost Story (1987, directed by Ching Siu-tung), he kept pushing back the boundaries of Hong Kong special effects. He led the way in replacing the rough and ready camera style of 1970s kung fu with glossier and more sophisticated visuals and ever more furious editing.

John Woo and the triad films

As a producer, Tsui Hark facilitated the creation of John Woo's epoch-making heroic bloodshed movie A Better Tomorrow (1986). Woo's saga of cops and the triads (Chinese gangsters) combined fancifully choreographed (and extremely violent) gunplay with heightened emotional melodrama, sometimes resembling a modern-dress version of 1970s kung fu films by Woo's mentor Chang Cheh. The formula broke another all-time box office record. It also jump-started the faltering career of co-star Chow Yun-fat, who overnight became one of the colony's most popular idols and Woo's favorite leading man.[3]

For the remainder of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, a deluge of films by Woo and others explored similar territory, often with a similar visual style and thematic bent. They were usually marked by an emphasis on the fraternal bonds of duty and affection among the criminal protagonists. The most notable other auteur of these themes was Ringo Lam, who offered a less romanticized take in such films as City on Fire, Prison on Fire (both 1987), and Full Contact (1992), all starring Chow Yun-Fat. The genre and its creators were accused in some quarters of cravenly glorifying real-life triads, whose involvement in the film business was notorious.[16]

The wire-work wave

As the triad films petered out in the early 1990s, period martial arts returned as the favored action genre. But this was a new martial arts cinema that took full advantage of technical strides as well the higher budgets that came with Hong Kong's dominance of the region's screens. These lavish productions were often adapted from the more fantastical wuxia novels, which featured flying warriors in mid-air combat. Performers were trussed up on ultrathin wires to allow them to conduct gravity-defying action sequences, a technique known by Western fans, sometimes disparagingly, as wire fu.[8]

As so often, Tsui Hark led the way. He produced Swordsman (1990), which reestablished the wuxia novels of Jin Yong as favorite big-screen sources (television adaptations had long been ubiquitous). He directed Once Upon a Time in China (1991), which resurrected oft-filmed folk hero Wong Fei Hung. Both films were followed by sequels and a raft of imitations, often starring Mainland wushu champion Jet Li. He went on to receive a special award for a mainland China person at the 1995 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. The other signature star of the subgenre was Taiwanese-born actress Brigitte Lin. She made an unlikely specialty of androgynous woman-warrior types, such as the villainous, sex-changing eunuch in The Swordsman 2 (1992), epitomizing martial arts fantasy's often-noted fascination with gender instability.[17]

Influence in the West

All of these developments not only made Hong Kong the dominant cinema in East Asia, but reawakened Western interest. Building on the reduced but enduring kung fu movie subculture, Jackie Chan and films like Tsui Hark's Peking Opera Blues (1986) were already building a cult following when Woo's The Killer (1989) had a limited but successful release in the U.S. and opened the floodgates. In the '90s, Westerners with an eye on "alternative" culture became common sights in Chinatown video shops and theaters, and gradually the films became more available in the mainstream video market and even occasionally in mainstream theaters. Western critics and film scholars also began to take Hong Kong action cinema seriously and made many key figures and films part of their canon of world cinema.

From here, Hong Kong came to define a new vocabulary for worldwide action cinema, with the aid of a new generation of North American filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992) drew inspiration from City on Fire and his two-part Kill Bill (2003–04) was in large part a martial arts homage, borrowing Yuen Woo-Ping as fight choreographer and actor. Robert Rodriguez's Desperado (1995) and its 2003 sequel Once Upon a Time in Mexico aped Woo's visual mannerisms. The Wachowski brothers' The Matrix trilogy (1999–2003) of science-fiction-action blockbusters borrowed from Woo and wire fu movies and also employed Yuen behind the scenes. Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006) was a remake of the Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002–2003) by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.

Exit of many leading figures

Due to the new-found international awareness of Hong Kong films during the 1980s and early 1990s and a downturn in the industry as the 1990s progressed, many of the leading lights of Hong Kong cinema left for Hollywood, which offered budgets and pay which could not be equalled by Hong Kong production companies.

John Woo left for Hollywood after his 1992 film Hard Boiled. His 1997 film Face/Off was the breakthrough that established his unique style in Hollywood. This effort was immensely popular with both critics and public alike (it grossed over US$240 million worldwide). Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) grossed over US$560 million worldwide. Since these two films, Woo has struggled to revisit his successes of the 1980s and early 1990s.[18]

After over fifteen years of success in Hong Kong cinema and a couple of attempts to crack the U.S. market, Jackie Chan's 1995 film Rumble in the Bronx finally brought him recognition in the U.S. Since then, he has made several highly successful films for U.S. studios including Rush Hour (1998), Shanghai Noon (2000), and their respective sequels. Between his films for U.S. studios, he still makes films for Hong Kong studios, sometimes in English (Mr. Nice Guy and Who Am I?), often set in western countries like Australia or the Netherlands, and sometimes in Cantonese (2004's New Police Story and 2006's Rob-B-Hood). Because of his enormous U.S. popularity, these films are usually released in the U.S., a rarity for Hong Kong films, and generally attract respectable audience numbers.

Jet Li has reduced his Hong Kong output since 1998's Hitman concentrating on Hollywood instead. After a minor role in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), he has gone on to star in several Hollywood films which have performed respectably and made a name for him with American audiences. So far, he has returned to Chinese cinema for only two films: Hero (2002) and Fearless (2006). He claimed Fearless would be his last traditional kung fu film. Chow Yun-fat has also moved to Hollywood. After his 1995 film Peace Hotel, he has made a handful of films in Hollywood which have not seen as much success as Jet Li's: these include The Replacement Killers (1998), The Corruptor (1999), Anna and the King (1999) and Bulletproof Monk (2003). He returned to China for 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and 2006's Curse of the Golden Flower.

Recent trends

The Hong Kong film industry has been in a severe slump since the mid-1990s. The number of local films produced, and their box office takings, are dramatically reduced; American imports now dominate in a way they had not for decades, or perhaps ever. This crisis and increased contact with Western cinema have probably been the biggest recent influences on Hong Kong action cinema.[19]

Luring local and regional youth audiences away from Hollywood is a constant concern. Action movies are now generally headlined by babyfaced Cantonese pop music idols, such as Ekin Cheng and Nicholas Tse, enhanced with wires and digital effects – a trend also driven by the waning of a previous generation of martial arts-trained stars. The late 1990s witnessed a fad for Cantopop stars in high-tech, more American-styled action pictures such as Downtown Torpedoes (1997), Gen-X Cops and Purple Storm (both 1999).

Andrew Lau's wuxia comic-book adaptation The Storm Riders (1998) earned a record-breaking gross and ushered in an era of computer-generated imagery, previously little used in Hong Kong film. Tsui Hark's lavish CGI-enhanced efforts Time and Tide (2000) and The Legend of Zu (2001), however, were surprisingly unsuccessful. Comedy megastar and director Stephen Chow used digital effects to push his typical affectionate parody of martial arts conventions to cartoonish levels in Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004), each of which also set a new box office record.

Striking a different note were a series of crime films more restrained and actor-driven than the earlier, John Woo-inspired examples. The Milkyway Image production company was at the vanguard with examples like Patrick Yau's Expect the Unexpected (1998), Johnnie To's The Mission (1999) and Running Out of Time (1999). Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's blockbuster Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002–2003) has set off a mini-trend of brooding police thrillers.

Collaboration with other industries, particularly that of Mainland China, is another increasingly common survival and recovery strategy. Hong Kong stars and other personnel have been involved in international wuxia successes like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004).

See also


  1. ^ (Chute & Lim, 2003, 14–15)
  2. ^ a b (Chute & Lim, 2003, 2)
  3. ^ a b c d e (Logan, 1995)
  4. ^ "Chinese Martial Arts: Philosophical influences"Chinese martial arts
  5. ^ (Chute and Lim, 2003, 8 & 15)
  6. ^ (Teo, 2003)
  7. ^ African Americans, Kung Fu Theater and Cultural Exchange at the Margins by Amy Abugo Ongiri in the Journal of Asian American Studies. Project Muse PDF version . Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  8. ^ a b GreenCine primer: Hong Kong Action Archived 2006-03-21 at the Wayback Machine by Patrick Macias . Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  9. ^ a b (Teo, 1997)
  10. ^ "Dragon Lord". Love HK Film. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  11. ^ "Dragon Lord (DVD Description)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  12. ^ David Everitt (August 16, 1996). "Kicking and Screening: Wheels on Meals, Armour of God, Police Story, and more are graded with an eye for action". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  13. ^ Internet Movie Database Business Data . Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  14. ^ Bright Lights Film Journal, An Evening with Jackie Chan by Dr. Craig Reid, issue 13, 1994 . Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  15. ^ (Bordwell 2000)
  16. ^ (Dannen, Long, 1997)
  17. ^ Unsung Heroes: Reading Transgender Subjectivities in Hong Kong Action Cinema by Helen Hok-Sze Leung. Web version 2004–05 . Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  18. ^ Asia Week, The Next Mission by Winnie Chung, 30 June 2000, Vol. 29 no 5 . Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  19. ^ MovieMaker Magazine issue 49: The New Orient Express Hong Kong to Hollywood Archived 2006-03-24 at the Wayback Machine by Patrick J Gorman . Retrieved 1 April 2006.


  • Brady, Terrence J. Alexander Fu Sheng: Biography of the Chinatown Kid. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2018. ISBN 978-1717363671.
  • Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-674-00214-8.
  • Chan, Jackie, with Jeff Yang. I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action. New York: Ballantine, 1998. ISBN 0-345-41503-5.
  • Chute, David, and Cheng-Sim Lim, eds. Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film. Los Angeles: UCLA Film and Television Archive, 2003. (Film series catalog; no ISBN.)
  • Dannen, Fredric, and Barry Long. Hong Kong Babylon: The Insider's Guide to the Hollywood of the East. New York: Miramax, 1997. ISBN 0-7868-6267-X.
  • Logan, Bey. Hong Kong Action Cinema. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1995. ISBN 0-87951-663-1.
  • Teo, Stephen. Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions. London: British Film Institute, 1997. ISBN 0-85170-514-6.
  • Teo, Stephen. "Shaw's Wuxia Films" in Ain-Ling, W. (2003) The Shaw Screen, Hong Kong Film Archive.
  • Yang, Jeff. Once Upon a Time in China: A Guide to Hong Kong, Taiwanese, and Mainland Chinese Cinema. New York: Atria, 2003. ISBN 0-7434-4817-0.

External links

A Better Tomorrow

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.

Action film

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero (though a small number of films in this genre have ended in victory for the villain instead). Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common action scenes in films are generally, but not limited to, car chases, fighting and gunplay or shootouts.

This genre is closely associated with the thriller and adventure genres, and they may also contain elements of drama and spy fiction.

Bryan Leung

Bryan Leung Kar-yan (born 20 January 1949) is a Hong Kong film and television actor and film director who has played roles in numerous acclaimed martial arts films. He is affectionately known as "Beardy" due to his trademark facial hair. He also has characteristic hyper-extendable fingers, which can be observed when he has his palms open and his fingers outstretched. Despite being one of the most well-known faces in Hong Kong action cinema, he had no formal martial arts training, relying on his talents at mimicry to imitate the moves shown to him by the action directors.

Frankie Chan

Frankie Chan Fan-kei (born 1951) is a Chinese martial arts actor, film director, producer, action director, and composer.

Chan is best known to Hong Kong action cinema fans as the main antagonist in Sammo Hung's The Prodigal Son where he faces Yuen Biao in the final reel. Chan has starred in a number of modern action films, most notably Burning Ambition, Outlaw Brothers and Carry On Pickpocket. He also directed and composed many films in the 1970s and 1980s, including The Young Master, Odd Couple and Armour of God II: Operation Condor. In 2011 Chan directed Legendary Amazons, a film about the female Generals of the Yang clan.

Gun fu

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.

Heroic bloodshed

Heroic bloodshed is a genre invented by Hong Kong action cinema and crime film revolving around stylized action sequences and dramatic themes such as brotherhood, duty, honour, redemption and violence that has become a popular genre used by different directors worldwide. The term heroic bloodshed was coined by editor Rick Baker in the magazine Eastern Heroes in the late 1980s, specifically referring to the styles of directors John Woo and Ringo Lam. Baker defined the genre as "a Hong Kong action film that features a lot of gun play and gangsters rather than kung fu. Lots of blood. Lots of action." Woo's breakthrough film A Better Tomorrow (1986) largely set the template for the genre. Woo has also been a major influence in its continued popularity and evolution in his following works, namely A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987), The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992).The heroic bloodshed genre had a considerable impact on world cinema, including Hollywood, in the 1990s. Woo introduced his brand of heroic bloodshed to Hollywood in the 1990s. Lam's City on Fire (1987) inspired Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992); Tarantino was an admirer of the heroic bloodshed genre. The Killer also heavily influenced Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional (1994).

Impact (action entertainment magazine)

Impact was a monthly magazine published in the United Kingdom between January 1992 and January 2012. Founded and initially edited by film maker Bey Logan, 241 issues were published during its twenty-year history.

After the magazine ceased publication, it continued as an online presence. It is likely modelled on its French counterpart, also known as Impact, which was started in 1986. It covers the field of action entertainment: including Hong Kong action cinema, worldwide martial arts films, Hollywood productions, anime, comics, action films and East Asian cinema in general. The website is edited by John Mosby, with Mike Leeder acting as Eastern Editor from the Hong Kong office, and Andrez Bergen as Tokyo Correspondent.

Filmmakers such as Phil Hobden (Left For Dead and Ten Dead Men) write regular articles for the magazine.

James Tien (actor)

James Tien-chun (Chinese: 田俊; born 28 May 1942) is a Hong Kong actor from Guangdong, China. He appeared in almost 70 films, primarily in Hong Kong action cinema, including roles in the films of martial arts stars including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. He often played villains or supporting roles. He retired from the Hong Kong film industry in 1996.

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a 2002 American martial arts comedy film that parodies Hong Kong action cinema. Written, directed by and starring Steve Oedekerk, it uses footage from the 1976 Hong Kong martial arts film Tiger & Crane Fists (also called Savage Killers), along with new footage shot by Oedekerk, to create an original, unrelated plot.

The film was a moderate box office success, grossing $17 million worldwide, and received largely negative critical reviews but has since become a cult film. A sequel, to be written and directed by Oedekerk, was announced in 2015.

Kung fu film

Kung fu film (Chinese: 功夫片; pinyin: Gōngfu piàn; Jyutping: Gung1fu1pin3) is a subgenre of martial arts films and Hong Kong action cinema set in the contemporary period and featuring realistic martial arts. It lacks the fantasy elements seen in wuxia, a related martial arts genre that uses historical settings based on ancient China. Swordplay is also less common in kung-fu films than in wuxia and fighting is done through unarmed combat.Kung fu films are an important product of Hong Kong cinema and the West, where it was exported. Studios in Hong Kong produce both wuxia and kung fu films.

Mo Tse

Mo Tse (Chinese: 謝苗 also known as Miu Tse, Tse Miu, Tze Miu, Xia Miao, Xie Miao) is an actor who began as a child actor. He is known for his roles in Hong Kong action cinema. He has starred as a father-son duo with Jet Li in the 1994 film The New Legend of Shaolin. He was also in The Champions, which was the opening film at the 2008 Chinese American Film Festival.In 2006, he graduated from Capital Institute of Physical Education (CIPE).

Ng See-yuen

Ng See-yuen, born 1944 in Shanghai is a Chinese director of independent film companies in Hong Kong. He has worked in the Hong Kong film industry since 1970, particularly in Hong Kong action cinema, with roles including film director, producer and screenwriter.

Ng is the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers.

Onno Boelee

Onno Boelee (1945–2013) was a Dutch-born New Zealand actor, stuntman and professional wrestler. Although never winning a championship title, he was a popular star in Steve Rickard's All Star-Pro Wrestling, frequently appearing on Rickard's wrestling programme On the Mat, and later in Japan for Giant Baba and All-Japan Pro Wrestling during the early to mid-1970s.

After his retirement in 1976, Boelee achieved some success as a character actor and stuntman during the 1980s, especially in Hong Kong action cinema, and eventually founded a private security company which is involved in stunt performance, armoury and acting within the New Zealand film and television industry. He is also the younger brother of artist Rudolf Boelee.

Peter Yang

Peter Yang Kwan, also known as Yang Qun (Chinese: 楊群; born September 25, 1935), is a retired Hong Kong martial artist film actor, film producer and director, best known for his appearances in Hong Kong action cinema of the 1970s and 1980s.

He starred in the 1969 film King of Kings.


A stunt is an unusual and difficult physical feat or an act requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes usually on television, theatre, or cinema. Stunts are a feature of many action films. Before computer generated imagery special effects, these effects were limited to the use of models, false perspective and other in-camera effects, unless the creator could find someone willing to jump from car to car or hang from the edge of a skyscraper: the stunt performer or stunt double.

Video Watchdog

Video Watchdog was a bimonthly, digest size film magazine published from 1990 to 2017 by publisher/editor Tim Lucas and his wife, art director and co-publisher Donna Lucas.Although devoted chiefly to the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres, the magazine frequently delved beyond these strictures into art film, Hong Kong action cinema, spaghetti western, exploitation films, anime, and general mainstream cinema. In addition to Lucas himself, Video Watchdog's list of regular contributors included such writers as Kim Newman, Stephen R. Bissette, associate editor John Charles, Bill Cooke and Heather Drain. Regular columns included "Ramsey's Rambles" by Ramsey Campbell and "Fleapit Flashbacks" by Joe Dante. Douglas E. Winter contributed a CD/music column, "Audio Watchdog," while books were reviewed in "Biblio Watchdog" by Lucas, Anthony Ambrogio and Brett Taylor.

Wire fu

Wire fu is an element or style of Hong Kong action cinema used in fight scenes. It is a combination of two terms: "wire work" and "kung fu."

Wire fu is used to describe a subgenre of kung fu movies where the stuntmen's or actor's skill is augmented with the use of wires and pulleys, as well as other stage techniques, usually to perform fight-scene stunts and give the illusion of super-human ability (or Qinggong). It is exemplified by the work of Tsui Hark, Yuen Woo-ping, and Jet Li. Hollywood has subsequently adapted the style for the American film industry. Almost all modern wuxia movies fall in this category. Not all martial arts films use wire work.

Yuen Woo-ping

Yuen Woo-ping (Chinese: 袁和平; pinyin: Yuán Hépíng; alias: Yuen Wo-ping; born 1945) is a Hong Kong martial arts choreographer and film director, renowned as one of the most successful and influential figures in the world of Hong Kong action cinema. He is one of the inductees on the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. Yuen is also a son of Yuen Siu-tien, a renowned martial arts film actor.

Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain

Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain is a 1983 Hong Kong supernatural fantasy film directed by Tsui Hark, who attempts to combine Hong Kong action cinema with Western special effects technology. The film received five nominations at the 3rd Hong Kong Film Awards (Best Action Choreography - Corey Yuen, Best Actress - Brigitte Lin, Best Art Direction - William Chang, Best Film Editing - Peter Cheung and Best Picture).

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