#5 – Lethal Weapon 4
“I’m getting too old for this…” Well Danny Glover and Mel Gibson were anyways. Jet Li, on the other hand, breathed life into what should have been a dying franchise. This was his first true American film, but again, his English was extremely limited and that showed in the film by his lack of dialogue. Of course, when you can kick every person’s ass in the film twice, you don’t need to say very much.
#4 – Unleashed
Unleashed was a completely new approach to a role for Li. Originally titled Danny the Dog (which was a better choice, in my opinion), Li was Danny, an adult with the mental development of a small child but the insane fighting skills of a madman. He starred along side Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman, really held his own as a thespian and, in some places, out-shone them. The story for the film is touching while the fight scenes are incredible. If you haven’t watched this film yet, it should go straight to the top of your “Must See” list.
#3 – Hero
Jet Li is Nameless in Hero. No really, his name is Nameless and I’m not talking about the film Hero with Dustin Hoffman. Hero takes Li back to another period piece set sometime in 400 B.C., where he must defeat three assassins intent on killing the warlord of his province. Soulful, moving and intense is the only way to describe this entire film and even though the focus wasn’t on Li’s martial arts, the fight scenes are some of the best ever presented.
#2 – Fearless
Even though Fearless is a more modern attempt at a Chinese period epic, it still managed to thrill the audiences that watched it. Li plays the real-life character of Huo Yuanjia, a martial arts master who fought to regain his honor by defeating multiple foreign foes in the same day. It’s a compelling story with a message of restraint and mercy laced throughout. You’ll watch Fearless for the action; you’ll enjoy Fearless for the acting. Sadly, Li declared this would be the last Chinese epic he would star in.
#1 – Once Upon a Time in China Trilogy
And so we come to what is possibly the greatest consistent trilogy ever made – Once Upon a Time in China. The keyword here is CONSISTENT – because every single one of the films in this trilogy are fantastic! Li plays the Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung, who tries to rally his people together in the late 19th century against Westerners perceived to be taking advantage of his country. From the time you start watching the first film to the time you finish the third, you will thoroughly enjoy every minute of this series.
It should be apparent by this point that Jet Li’s early Chinese period films are some of my favorite films ever made and I’m not ashamed to say so. He is hands down, in my opinion, the best martial arts actor of our time. I know names like Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee will all get thrown in my face but as far as I’m concerned, Li has much broader range in acting than any of them. Do you agree with me or am I man-crushing on Jet Li just a little too much?
These have been our top 10 reasons why Jet Li is qualified to be an Expendable – what are yours?
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