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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
#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?
Follow us on Twitter @Walwus and @ScreenRant.