Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is important for a lot of reasons. Not only is it the first Star Wars spinoff of the Disney era, but it is also the first prequel under the new regime. Most importantly, it is the American debut of Donnie Yen. OK, that's not entirely true. Yen has been in several films imported from China, like Hero (see him kick butt below) as well as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role in Blade II. And how about that time he fought Bruce Lee? Still, there's no denying that Yen's turn as Chirrut will be his biggest role for US viewers, by leaps and bounds.
However, this isn't the case around the world. In fact, in China Yen is an absolute megastar. Making his screen debut in 1984's Drunken Tai Chi, Yen has gone on to stardom with films like SPL: Kill Zone (released as Kill Zone in the United States), Flash Point and the Ip Man series.
His claim to fame is his awe-inspiring fight scenes. Known for utilizing several types of martial arts in one fight, he has garnered praise from martial arts movie legends like Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh and Jackie Chan. With such high praise it is easy to see why he was picked to be in Rogue One. But just in case you still aren't convinced, here is your chance to learn about Rogue One's Secret Weapon.
8. Hahou Mo Vs. Fung Yu-Sau — Kung Fu Jungle
While released fairly recently, the final fight in Kung Fu Jungle (released as Kung Fu Killer in the States) it is the perfect example of a good Yen fight. Finally catching Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang), the man killing martial arts masters, the two battle it out in a busy street. Using a mix of kung fu, grappling and weapons, it is a perfect representation of Yen and why his fight choreography is so unique.
7. Detective Sergeant Ma Jun Vs. Tiger — Flash Point
After an attempted assassination, Detective Ma chases criminal Tiger (Xing Yu) into a crowded restaurant. When Tiger uses a child as a human shield, Ma draws the line and the fight is on. Inspired by mixed martial arts, the fight is a lot of lighting-fast knees and punches, with a pro-wrestling suplex thrown in for good measure.
6. The Real Grand Master — Ip Man 3
Despite being the most recent in the Ip Man series, the third installment was just as action-packed as the ones that came before it. There are plenty of fights to highlight and while the fight against Mike Tyson's Frank (and his awkward Chinese dubbing) is fun, I had to go with the final battle scene. Facing off against self-proclaimed grandmaster Cheung Tin-chi (Jin Zhang) in a series of rounds, first it is a battle of six-and-a-half-point poles, then butterfly swords and finally hand-to-hand combat. It is a beautiful display of old-school kung fu action that's well worth checking out.
5. Ip Man Vs. Hung Chun-Nam — Ip Man 2
Wishing to open his own school, Ip Man (Yen) goes through a couple of opponents before coming up against Hung Chun-Nam (the legendary Sammo Kam-Bo Hung). A fight between two screen legends, it lives up to the hype with some creative Hung choreography and decent wire work. As good as this one is, the two engage in a much better fight scene (as we'll see in a bit).
4. Scene Of The Crime — Wu Xia
Released as Dragon in the US, it follows detective Xu Bai-Jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) investigating the death of two robbers who are killed by shopkeeper Liu Jin-Xi (Yen). Like an Ancient Chinese version of A History of Violence, he quickly discovers Lin's true identity as a deadly martial artist. One of the cooler scenes in the film is Xu's questioning of Lin. Going through the fight, the audience watches in slow motion as Xu Bai-jiu comments on every merciless hit. Darkly comic at times, it is an interesting dissection of a fight scene that we rarely see.
3. Ip Man Vs. 10 Black Belts — Ip Man
Every great martial arts actor seems to have a definitive "one vs. all" fight scene. Jet Li took on a group of Japanese kung fu students in Fist of Legend. For Bruce Lee, it was taking on a dojo in Fist of Fury. Heck, Jackie Chan has made a career doing just that in movies like Police Story 4: First Strike, The Legend of Drunken Master and Rumble in the Bronx. For Yen, it's in the original Ip Man film. Forced to fight for rations by the Japanese military, Yen (as the titular Ip Man) takes on a group of 10 black belts. Calmly stepping into the center of the mat, Master Ip is able to take out the group with an impressive efficiency. Directed by Wilson Yip and with martial arts choreography by Sammo Hung, it is easy to see why Ip Man launched a series of imitators.
2. The Alley Fight — SPL: Sha Po Lang
From SPL, I call it THE Alley Fight because I have yet to see a better alley fight. It is a bloody battle where Inspector Ma Kwan faces off against assassin Jack (Jing Wu). Armed with a police baton and a knife, respectively, it's a fight to the death. There is a certain combination of speed and brutality to the battle that's rarely seen in most action today.
1. Inspector Ma Kwun Vs. Wong Po — SPL: Sha Po Lang
Remember when I said there was a better Sammo Hung vs. Donnie Yen fight than what we saw in Ip Man 2? This is it. A fist fight between Ma Kwun and Wong Po (Sammo Hung), it is a masterful display of unarmed combat. It features everything, from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, lightning-fast hand-to-hand combat, judo and even power moves from Hung. With its unique blend of martial arts and great choreography, it is the definitive Donnie Yen movie fight. That said, I would love to see Rogue One try to top it.
Which Donnie Yen fight do you like the most?