john wick

21 Best Martial Arts Movies From The 21st Century

Top Martial Arts Films of the 21st Century

For Black Belt's September 2005 issue, I wrote "Top 20 Martial Arts Films of All Time." I based my selections on each movie's impact on martial arts cinema, not necessarily on its acting or fight choreography. It wasn't an easy process then, and it wasn't any easier when the editor of Black Belt asked me to write this piece on the top films that have been released during this century. Nevertheless, I agreed. Here's my top-21 countdown.

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Director Chad Stahelski on John Wick: Chapter 3

With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum ($75 million budget; $314 million worldwide box office as of press time), director Chad Stahelski has finally done it! He's created a superbly made American movie, filled with innovative fight and camera choreography that matches the creativity of the man he accidentally learned from, Yuen Woo-ping. Yuen, you may recall, did the fight choreography for 1999's The Matrix and is still considered one of best directors of cinematic combat in history. Now, you're probably wondering what I mean by "accidentally."

For The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers wanted frenetic-paced, over-the-top, Hong Kong–style martial arts action, and they wanted to shoot it in a way that no one had shot martial arts action before. They needed two things: cutting-edge special effects and a Hong Kong fight director.

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The four months Keanu Reeves spent learning martial arts pays off handsomely in "John Wick," which features brutal fights that don't rely on camera tricks or fancy editing.

Keanu Reeves disappointed some film fans with his combative roles in 47 Ronin (2013) and Man of Tai Chi (2013), in part because he looked out of place and miscast. That's especially ironic when you consider that Reeves directed — and cast himself in — Man of Tai Chi. But like an old Jaws 2 trailer, Reeves is back, and this time it’s personal. His latest neo-hero actioner is titled John Wick. In it, Reeves returns to the mentality that transformed him into a martial arts hero with his “Neo” performance in The Matrix (1999). In John Wick, however, everything is personal, and that’s what makes the film and the fights work.

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