Why They’re Expendable: Jet Li

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

#5 – Lethal Weapon 4

the expendables jet li lethal weapon 4 Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

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

the expendables jet li unleashed Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

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

the expendables jet li hero Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

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

the expendables jet li fearless Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

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

the expendables jet li once upon a time china Why Theyre Expendable: Jet Li

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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  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.

      • 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. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

            • 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.

  6. 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!

  7. @ 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!!! 😛 😀 Good article though.

      • @ anthony

        to which movie are you reffering to as a remake?

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

    • 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.

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. @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!

  16. 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)…

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.