Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge
When The Fast and the Furious (2001) sped into the psyche's of illegal street racing enthusiasts, with a penchant for danger and the psychotic insanity of arrant automotive adventure, the brusque bearish, quasi-hero rebel, Dominic "Dom" Toretto was caustic yet salvationally portrayed with the power of a train using a Vin Diesel engine.
Justin Lin's climb up the Fast & Furious ladder matches the film titles, fast and furious. He's the only director to shoot five sequels (3, 4, 5, 6, 9) with F10 on the way. The resulting action composition in F9: The Last Saga (F9) has been brewing since his intro to Bruce Lee and Lin's early subliminal and now obvious influences from Jackie Chan.
When I first discussed Bruce Lee with the Taiwanese-born, Los Angeles-raised Lin in 1997, he shared, "Whether Asian Americans like it or not, they all have a relationship with Bruce. When I was 10, I was deeply disturbed watching Bruce's Game of Death (1979). There was a guy who vaguely looked like Lee interspersed with shots of the real Lee, right down to a photo of Lee pasted onto a mirror to make us believe the guy in front of the mirror was Bruce. Yet when I first saw Bruce Lee on screen, I felt his power, he gave me the strength to strive for something. After learning about the film's freaky news, I thought, how in the hell did the double get that job?"
Lin addressed this question in his first martial arts film, Finishing the Game (2007). Co-starring Sung Kang, Lin also hired fight choreographer Don Thai, who at the time was a close associate and one of Jackie Chan's protégés.
Years earlier, Jackie Chan's Opera brother Corey Yuen directed Jason Statham's breakout martial arts film Transporter(2002). Around the same time, Jackie Chan's stunt double/fight choreographer, Andy Cheng, was priming Dwayne Johnson in Chan's style of action too as the fight coordinator on Johnson's first martial arts film Rundown (2003).
The Fast & Furious films began as street drag-racing movies, perhaps influenced by the demented driving antics of Steve McQueen in real life and in his movie Getaway (1972). Yet with the addition of Dwayne Johnson as CIA agent Luke Hobbs in Fast Five (2011), whose job was to track down and capture Dom, the franchise morphed into a car-llection of visceral flicks filled with over-the-top, outrageous, literal high-octane car stunts.
Then just as you think there's no more juice in the engines, apart from flashing red buttons connected to newfangled fuel-injection systems, which are attached to nitrous oxide canisters capable of giving short bursts of Star Wars light speed, Furious 7 (2015) arrived. F7 upped the martial arts ante by casting legitimate martial artist Jason Statham as the rogue assassin Deckard Shaw who ran pugilistic mayhem around Dom and Hobbs.
Yet with F9, Lin translated Lee's power into his action sequences and saw how Chan's fights used the tangible qualities of space and how Chan continually transforms it from the confines of small rooms, alleys or a high-rise's narrow ledge to the vastness of a castle, mountaintop, or rooftops of big towering buildings. Like Chan, Lin achieves these transformations via extended chase sequences where each unpredictable redefinition of space adds to the scene's momentum by creating a giddy farce. As his characters move through new environments, they confront new circumstances and possibilities.
With F9, Lin goes beyond these confines. Dom learns that his long-lost renegade brother Jacob (John Cena) has become a deadly assassin who's in cahoots with Dom's mortal enemy Cipher from The Fate and the Furious (2017) and her new psychotic partner Otto. Their aim is to find two halves of a top-secret gadget that can control the world's security network. It's time for Dom and his speedster band of brothers/sisters to unite to save the world from this terminally ruthless trio while dealing with family secrets.
In 1999, Diesel told about his bouncer and boxing background in New York, and his love for the 1970's Shaw Brother kung fu films adding with a bellowing calm voice, "It would've been cool to be in one of those movies, the weapons, the wires, the fights."
By a strange twist of fate, Diesel is doing a kung fu film that's as close to being a 1970s, Shaw Brothers wuxia movie than he could ever have imagined. His weapon of choice isn't fists, knives or kung fu, but a 1968 Dodge Charger with car fufight choreography.
Dom can maneuver his cars to block, deflect and parry oncoming forces of sideswiping and head on attacks from other autos, armored vehicles, giant transporter trucks and even a flying wing. His car fu has skills that can catch and intercept flying members of his team out of mid-air death plummets that are more radical than a square route.
The wire-fu car fu is as outrageous as it sounds. In one moment Dom can be speeding along then he pulls of this dodgy move that's akin to maniacal spider falling from a ceiling toward your unsuspecting head on the end of a single strand of silk thread.
Stunt coordinator J.J. Perry who was into Hong Kong stylized action since his beginnings, choreographed a handful of unique fights that are well worth the watch and there are two particular fights that take into account the yin and yang balance of combat.
One is Dom's rough and tumble, smash and crash brawl as he becomes a human muscle car in a wide-open underground warehouse where he takes on droves of heavily armed punch and crunch security forces. The opposing energy is a powerful light focusing on the F9's fighting women, Letty, Mia and newcomer Elle taking on a team of marauding mercenaries within the tight confines of a small Tokyo apartment. It's a close quarters, tag-team action fray using medium shots, where each lady does 2-6 techniques per take.
In Chinese numerology, nine represents longevity and so it's no wonder that F9 will continue the franchise's staying power where breaking the speed limit is a way of life.
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The Dutch-Turkish athlete broke his hand late in his training camp and announced the injury on his Instagram page.
""During one of my last sparring sessions, I hit an elbow. I immediately felt intense pain at the time, but I did not want to give into it. At one point, it got so bad that I couldn't make a fist anymore. I went to the hospital for a photo and it turned out to be broken," wrote Ozcan.
Top-ranked bantamweight contender Saemapetch Fairtex has also been removed from his upcoming bout against Tawanchai PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym. A member of Saemapetch's corner tested positive for COVID-19, and due to contract tracing to help keep everyone safe, he was removed from the card.
With both men out of their scheduled bouts, Sitthichai and Tawanchai have agreed to meet in a headlining contest at ONE: Battleground III on Friday, August 27, per ONE.
And it comes with high stakes.
"Killer Kid" will put on the 4-ounce gloves for the first time in his career for a featherweight Muay Thai clash against Tawanchai, and the winner could very well earn a shot against ONE Featherweight World Champion Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy.
Although unfortunate circumstances led to these changes, fans are still being awarded with an amazing main event between two of the world's most spectacular strikers.
It will all go down at ONE: Battleground III. The event will air on Bleacher Report's YouTube channel and app at 8:30 a.m. EST/5:30 a.m. PST on Friday, August 27.
Tawanchai's MIND-BLOWING Debut Against Sean ClancyMuay Thai phenom Tawanchai PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym took on Irish striking star Sean Clancy in his anticipated ONE Championship debut at ONE: DANGAL!#ONEDanga...
Warning: An analogy is about to be used for effect. But not merely for effect. It is chosen intentionally because of the life-threatening nature of the subject matter. The analogy and thesis being that weight-cutting in MMA is proving to be similar to what happens in situations of domestic abuse. As stated, this is not used or mentioned lightly and it is in the frontal lobe that many families (including the writer's) have had the loss and bruises, so that here it is very much taken extreme seriously. The comparison is used completely wittingly with the full respect to those who suffer. It is actually that respect and the constant sight of suffering that instigated this communication. When we say of both situations that someone might literally die unless something changes, it is not hyperbole and further it is tough to find more pointed language to give it the seriousness it deserves.
The comparison is seen when this terrible subject is addressed and when the involved parties suggest that nearly dying is just the way it is. Nothing can be done. It is that those involved just did not work hard enough when it counted. Many abuse victims get to the point of hopelessness and see no way out of their situations. Even at times practically justifying the abusers' actions. It is a coping mechanism to try and alleviate the shame of being victimized. It is a totally undeserved shame and it is actually another abuse perpetrated by abusers that a victim would feel any shame at all. It is heart-wrenching to hear a loved one say, "When it is not bad, they are sweet and caring." This is not even speaking of when there is fear of retaliation and more violence that leaves victims anchored to their plight. This is an age-old mess for sure – and so it is with life-threatening weight-cutting.
But, as many would attest, it can be very difficult for those on the outside looking in. When there is clear suffering and pain and nothing can be done about it. When we see people hurt and nothing is done, or worse when the discussion of abuse is had and not swept under the rug as is often the case, it is not a productive or helpful discussion. Case in point: When Julija Stoliarenko fainted on the scale in March of 2021, something strange happened in the commentary that followed that indeed proved unhelpful. Rather than coaches and athletes crying for change and an updated look at the dreadful practice, it was the same old song and dance – without the music or fun. It was the old refrain that – like those domestic situations – it was not that bad or not as bad as it looked. This was even said by those in her camp. Others echoed it and things like it such as; truth- be-told, everyone is going through this behind the scenes anyhow. And it is the cost of doing business. As though fighting itself, with its already inherent danger, is not enough punishment. There must be a literal risk of death before even entering the competition.
Even the fighters themselves – like those in fearfully pressured situations – do not speak out all too boldly against what is accepted in MMA. Ryan Benoit's weigh-in for UFC on ESPN 24 was both frightening and unsuccessful – just as Julia's was. The margins make this even more troublesome and maybe even ridiculous. Benoit came in three pounds over his flyweight limit with Zarrukh Adashev – a fight which was subsequently canceled. There can be literally a 60 pound discrepancy at heavyweight in MMA and that is alright. But a full- grown man or woman is expected to risk his or her life for three pounds or less at the lower weight classes? Further, theyare seen as unprofessional when the mark is missed. How are all involved not incredulous at this reality? In what other profession is there even the possibility that just showing up for work must involve a professionalism to avoid fainting due to dehydration and depletion?
It is said, if you see something, say something. This is saying something. People should fight at their natural weight. Instead of the sport and its fan base just cruising along saying when things are good, they are good, or regurgitating a Holloway-ism that it is what it is, this needs attention at all levels. It cannot be ok that a sport that already includes broken bones, shed blood, traumatic brain injury, loss of eyes, etc., should also include nearly dying just to compete. We can't just say we are happy to see a Conor McGregor holding two belts atop a cage and ignore the skeletonized shell on the scale. It is not good when it is good if it is life-threatening when it is bad – even before the fight even happens. Not even because the bad doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes MMA buys us flowers and chocolates too, does that mean we going to be ok with this indefinitely?