Why They’re Expendable: Jet Li

Published 5 years ago by , Updated May 26th, 2014 at 12:07 pm,

expendables 570 Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

Man, the testosterone levels on this site just keep getting higher and higher everyday and it’s all thanks to tomorrow’s release of The Expendables.

Everyday this week – which we are calling Expendables Week – on Screen Rant, we have been focusing on a couple of cast members from the film. If you’re just joining us then feel free to check out the previous articles on: Randy Couture, Steve Austin and Terry Crews; Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts; Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham.


Jet Li – Ying Yang

the expendables jet li Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

Today we are focusing on someone so badass that we had no choice but to dedicate an entire article just to his work. This pint-sized ball of martial arts energy is so indestructible that even a friggin tsunami couldn’t wipe him out. As outrageous as that story sounds, it’s 100% true.

Back in 2004, when an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a massive tsunami that devastated much of Indonesia, Li and his family were vacationing in the Maldives, which were also hit by extreme flooding. Just like a true badass, Li survived with only a minor injury while getting his daughter to safety.

Now combine that information with the fact that he also holds fifteen gold medals in the Chinese Wushu Championships and what you have is one awesome martial arts expert that shouldn’t be taken lightly (I’m talking to all the people who are down on Wushu because it’s a non-sparring sport).

So, without further ado, I give you our top 10 movies that qualify Jet Li to be an Expendable.


#10 – Kiss of the Dragon

the expendables jet li kiss of the dragon Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

Most people would start with Romeo Must Die when listing Li’s films because it was his first American leading role. Not me though – I consider Lethal Weapon 4 to be his first American film; plus I really like Kiss of the Dragon and at the time Bridgette Fonda was a hot whore (seriously, she played a drug addict prostitute in the film). Li’s English was still choppy in this film, so he didn’t have very many lines, but he whooped all sorts of butt in it and dispatches the bad guy with acupuncture needles. Pretty sick.


#9 – Cradle 2 the Grave

the expendables jet li cradle 2 the grave Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

Just ignore the fact that this movie has DMX, Anthony “Barely Funny” Anderson, Kelly Hu and Tom “Why’d I Marry Roseanne” Arnold and focus on the fight scene between Jet Li and Mark Dacasos. That one scene is worth all the extra worthless scenes in the movie and I could put it on a loop and watch it for 90 minutes straight.


#8 – The One

the expendables jet li the one Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

There are only two movies that I can recall where the lead character fights himself – The Evil Dead and The One. Li wasn’t originally attached to be the lead in this film, but Dwayne Johnson had scheduling conflicts and the role fell into Li’s lap. After watching the film, it’s hard to see anyone else being able to do completely different styles of martial arts when playing themselves as two different but identical-looking characters.


#7 – Black Mask

the expendables jet li black mask Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

Black Mask was one of Li’s first American released films that was filmed in Hong Kong and was only attempted after the success Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx the year before. Hollywood studios were testing the waters to see if American audiences would be willing to watch an actor who was a star in his own country but had never been heard of in the States. Black Mask was a great first film to introduce us to Li, even though the entire film is dubbed – even the English actors!


#6 – The Legend

the expendables jet li the legend Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

Jet Li cut his cinematic teeth back in the ’80s doing epic period tales set in China. He continued this trend into the ’90s and one of the best examples of this is The Legend. Audiences in mainland China eat this type of film up and it’s too bad that Western audiences never too took to it, because some of the best story telling comes from these type of films. Throw in the fact that the martial arts action scenes are exciting and enjoyable and you’ve got the main reason why these movies are made.


Continue to the top 5 Jet Li roles…

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  1. I’m not a fan of Li at all, I find him to be very pedestrian, he may be an excellent martial artist but as an actor he is terrible.

    • @Dr Sam

      Really? I think hes a pretty good actor.However I think Unleashed is one of his best films to date.The casting for that film was dead on and the action and story were awesome.I loved every second of it.:)

      • Yeah, sorry, I’ve never seen him in anything to make me think otherwise, I know a lot of people like him but I’m not a fan.

        • Fair enough Sam. I think if you watched Unleashed though you would thoroughly enjoy it. It’s a good movie regardless.

  2. haha! i was reading this atricle with much anticipation paul..as i was getting closer to the no.1 slot, i wasdying, wondering IF you were gonan mention the once upon a time in china trilogy..them BAM, suckerpunched.

    that trilogy is hands down my favorite of all of li’s films, the classic fight between him and Yen was awesome.

    sadly we dont know what might have become of lee as far as furthering his acting/martial arts career because of his death at an early age. but Li’s is right up there in the top of my list of favorite martial arts actors.

  3. Very pleased with this article. I have always been a huge fan of Jet Li, and I’m glad to know you guys at SR respect his abilities as an actor and a martial arts master as much as I do. It’s just a shame that people constantly compare him to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, who are two completely different monsters in their own rights. Thanks again SR.

    • im a firm believer that Kung Fu shouldnt be exploited in a comedic form like chan has chose to do so though. although drunken master 2 was great, drunken kung fu is comedy in itself.

  4. ^^^^ and that comment was NOT directed at any other comments on this page, I was just bringing it up.

  5. I love Jet Li and agree with your statement about him having a broader range as an actor. I absolutely adore the fact that you put Unleashed in your list. A lot of people don’t know about that movie but it is great and to me, is his best acting to date. Before anyone attacks my comment, I am only talking about his acting, not his action sequences. Hero is in my top 5 favorite movies of all time.

  6. Right on, dude! Did I just travel back to the 70′s? Sam Beckett???!!! :-)

    I agree 99% with you, Paul. The 1% would be transposing the number 1 and 2 spots; I thought Fearless was his best. I also agree about Lethal Weapon 4; that was the first film I had seen him in, and was immediately a fan. When I think of that film, I do not think of Mel Gibson nor Danny Glover, it would be Jet Li. Bruce Lee will always be remembered as the best martial artist but Li, for me, is second (followed closely by Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen).

    • Yen is better than Chan. i still have yet to see Chan in a serious ass-kicking full on martial arts film without there being too many comedic overtures involved. if you have any doubts about Yen, have a go at Ip man and Ip man 2, pure ass kicking genius

      • I’m a big fan of Yen in Iron Monkey.

        • @ Paul Young

          I think it would have been epic had Yen had more of a role in Blade 2 as Snowman.That one brief scene with him fighting the reaper with his Katana was simply awesome.

          • iron monkey was AWESOME..plus it was funny to see a very young Fei-Hung lol. Paul, check out Ip Man and Ip Man 2

            • Every one needs to stop hating on Chan jsut because he blends comedic skillw ith his martial arts and acrobatic ability. Let’s see stuntman for Bruce Lee, and has also won many martial arts tourneys as well. Let’s see the man split His Skull in Half, lived, and went on to finish Operation COndor: Armour of the Gods. CHAN = BAD ASS jsut as much as jet Li or Bruce lee.

            • @ anthony

              Im confused, you stated that you didn’t like to Kung Fu exploited in a comedic sense, yet u say Iron Monkey was funny? Many kung fu movies used comedy in the execution of the scenes, Chan was just a more recognizable person at the time, Jet Li even has some films that are in the same vein as Jackie Chan. Chan used anything as a weapon that he (the mark of a good martial artist), and well if he can whip ass and make people laugh at the same time, that’s just good acting and skill. The movies that I know of off hand where Chan str8 up T-Bags people with little or no comedy in his Fight scenes are Rumble in Hong Kong, The Killer Meteors, and Snake and Crane:Arts of the Shaolin.

              • he does more comedies than straight up martial arts films, i’ll stick to Li and Yen thanks

                • he just really isnt my preferance, sorry if that offends you, its not meant to at all :)

                  • no not offended at all, jsut dont think you’ve seen enough of his films before he went comedic is all. no probs here :)

              • Don’t forget The Myth. There wasn’t that much comedy in that, especially the scenes with the general. When you’re fighting an army, piling bodies upon bodies, that’s truly bad-a**!

      • There’s an Ip Man 2? Loved the first Ip Man.

        • yes there is an ip man 2 but it hasn’t been released stateside yet. IMO it’s not as good as the first one but still has some pretty good fight scenes. You can get it on import if you search for it.

  7. What? No Fist of Legend? That movie is so under-rated. Fight with the Japanese General at the end is the sickest fight ever! Look it up!

  8. @ Paul Young

    You shame me sir… Hero??? KIDS FROM SHAOLIN FTW!!! I’m a bit disappointed that most of his older and mostly better works did not make the list. I mean Fist of Legend should have been in the top five man. Don’t be sippin yur hater-aid on DMX — ARF ARF!!! :P :D Good article though.

    • maybe he doesnt like remakes either..even though it was a tribute type of remake

      • @ anthony

        to which movie are you reffering to as a remake?

  9. Chinese Connection…Li’s tribute to that film and Lee

  10. I’ll agree that Jet’Li is a phenomenal martial artist and a great actor. Although my favorite kung-fu movies by far are The Legend of Drunken Master with Jackie Chan and 2008′s Ip Man. Ip Man is probably my all time fav. The fight choreography was remarkable and it was quite the roller coaster ride.

    • joseph, ive never seen a human wing chun practice dummy before i saw Ip Man, the general never stood a chance.

  11. Yeah, I lost count of the times I said “Oh my God!” in that movie.

    • LOL. his movements were so precise when he had that guy against that pole, even the kics he used were just brutal. my friend was watching it as was like “it doesnt look like its doing anything to him” but then when he stopped and saw the damage, lol his jaw dropped, i just looked and gave him a grin

    • When I showed that movie to my son, and he saw the scene where Yen was hitting the guy like 100 times, he wanted me to play that seen over and over and over. :-)

      • like i said a live human wing chun dummy lol

  12. hey ken, if youre out there look at this footage, not sure if the link will work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbNETKezmns

    • No wander Bruce Lee thought Wing Chun was not enough :)

      I kid, I kid. MUCH respect to the old school traditional martial arts but that “demonstration” is pretty funny.

  13. I was always a Jackie Chan man myself. I could never take Jet seriously with all the silly flying around he does in his movies. Then I saw Kiss of the Dragon, and EXCELLENT flick. Then Unleashed came and also a very VERY underrated movie.

    It’s a shame you guys left out Fist of Legend. One of his best as well.

  14. come to think of it, time for another kung fu fest this weekend lol

  15. I think they should have Stallone, Li, Statham, Willis and maybe Rourke live. Then make Bruce Willis in the entire sequel (assuming they make one) and add Arnold in it for the entire film (assuming he’s back to making movies) and then add Dwayne Johnson in the movie.

    • You Know I was wondering why the Rock wasn’t tapped to be in the film, seeing how it was mentioned he was to take Arnie’s place as the buff action hero, but he wants his kids to be able to see his movie so there went that idea.

  16. i love that Mark Dacascos’ fight scene is in this list. Dacascos is underrated in my opinion and his fight with Li shows that.

    I am a fan of anything that has Statham and Li in it especially if they are going after one another.

  17. @Paul Young, I know this part of the conversation ended hours ago, but I’m not so sure that you left so much out. Fist of Legend is a given, and Kiss of the Dragon might be higher on the list, seriously, there was no wire work in the film, and only one (or maybe two) scene(s) included digital effects for fight enhancement. In my opinion, that is the holy grail in martial arts performance. Also, the philosophy in Hero puts it in a league of its own, not so much really for the martial arts, I mean, I’m bipolar and I was depressed for a whole week after watching that film, it had positive implications as well (if not interestingly manipulative in nature though…). Anyways, great review, well done!

  18. Oh, and just a clarification, I’m not 100% sure about what type of effects were used, from what I’ve read, a different sampling rate during the fight scene with the Nordic brothers was used due to Jet Li moving too quickly and some of his movements looking “Choppy” so they had to “upsample” smooth then “downsample” to make it look reasonable… Then I believe the laundry room scene with the grenade explosion, but that’s beyond his control, it’s not fight moves that are “augmented” in any way, it’s explosions that one cannot control with arm and leg movements :o)…

  19. Speaking of wing chun, Check out the Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao starrer “The Prodigal Son”. 70s style old school action. Certainly better than Ip Man. Also “Flashpoint” and “SPL” from Donnie Yen. Am a big fan of jackie chan and have almost 50 of his movies and I can honestly say he is a true bad ass! Check out the outakes at the end of the movie. He probably broke every bone in his body. No action star can do even half of the stunts he does. He doesnt use wires like jet li does. Well, he uses them now.(he’s 55!) Kung Fu Hustle by Stephen Chow is very good too. Its a comedy but the fight scenes are extreme. Tony Jaa’s “The Protector” is good too.

  20. No Fist of legend on this list? are you serious??..that is Jet li’s Best

  21. Wow, good compilatin, seen them all. but you left one very important movie out of the top ten, and I can’t understand why: FIST OF LEGEND. That’s one badass Li movie that you will bite your nails off and your breath sticks in at the amazing fight scenes, coreographed by Yuen Woo-ping. This was the movie that caught the Watchowskis’ attention and they hired Woo-ping for Matrix. Breathtaking fight scenes there, Li has never been choppier in it, some say it’s better than the original (it’s the remake of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury). Less wirework, more realistic fights. For me, it is number two after Fearless, which tops my list of all time fave movies, not just the all time fave Jet Li movies. Fist of Legend is classic!

  22. Jet Li ist mit abstand,der beste Martial Arts Actor und Kämpfer in The Expedables bin ich entäuscht er kriegt ne bescheidene Rolle ein man mit so viel Kapfkunst Talent na ja er gewinnt keine kämpfe und wird von Sly andauert gerettet. Aber auf der anderen Seite begreife ich es, Sly konnte nict Jet Li als unbesiegbar machen weil sonst würde mann die anderen in den Schatten stellen und so musste er eine gerechtere verteilung und besetzung achten trotztdem ein geiler Film danke.

  23. No offense, but anyone who not only doesn’t have “Fist of Legend” as the top Jet Li film of all time, (nevermind the best martial arts movie EVER), but WORSE, doesn’t even have it on the LIST amid the crap titles chosen, hasn’t the first clue what he’s talkin about.
    Sorry, but this list ain’t worth spit.

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