Donnie Yen is truly at the top of his martial arts game!
Donnie Yen is quite simply the greatest actor currently working in martial arts movies. He has played opposite Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Vin Diesel, Scott Adkins, Wesley Snipes and Mike Tyson. He’s taken over roles played by Bruce Lee, did a sequel to Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger and starred in a Star Wars movie for Christ sake.
He has literally picked up the mantle from Bruce Lee in introducing the world to a variety of martial arts exhibited in amazing fight scenes in his films. Two of my all time top 10 fight scenes feature Donnie Yen.
So anytime a great action star takes a detour into comedy, I tend to get nervous. For every Terminator, we get an Killing Gunther. Missing in Action will leave behind a Top Dog. Die Hard begets Hudson Hawk. Rambo will give us Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. The only actor I’ve seen successfully transitioning between action and comedy is Dwayne Johnson. But now it seems like Donnie Yen is determined to take his brand of action down the comedy rabbit hole with his latest Enter The Fat Dragon.
Donnie Yen is the Fat Dragon
Enter The Fat Dragon tells the story of Detective Fallon Zhu. He breaks up a bank robbery in the opening scene that leaves a wake of collateral damage. This gets him busted out of his unit down to the evidence room. He’s fiancé then leaves him because of this single minded dedication to his job. An injury proves to be the last straw. Our once lithe super cop then packs on about a hundred pounds and takes on the titular role of the title.
I think the advertising for this movie is a little misleading. Yen in a yellow track suit from Game of Death made me think this would be a zany comedy with some martial arts. But Yen continued his streak in never making a bad movie in delivering a typical police procedural, where he’s given the opportunity to redeem himself by delivering a prisoner to Japan. When that prisoner escapes and is murdered by the Yakuza, it’s up to our out of shape, fish out of water hero to solve his murder and close the case.
Donnie Yen is a fat suit is quite a sight to see. He kicks and flips and nunchucks his way across Japan. Yen may be 57 years old but looks like he is in his 30s in this movie. Age has not slowed this man down. Check out his acrobatics and his Parkour as he’s chased across rooftops or his flips and splits as he fights multiple opponents in all manner of fighting.
His action comedy a throwback to the actors trained at the Chinese Operas before they were all closed down. The best compliment I can give is he looks like a young Sammo Hung, who Yen actually fought in an amazing fight at the end of Kill Zone.
The Types of Martial Arts in ‘Enter the Fat Dragon’
So where do we find martial artists such as Donnie Yen? Donnie was been training in traditional Chinese martial arts like Kung Fu and Tai Chi since he was a child by his mother, who was a martial arts master in the Boston area. As a teenager, he picked up the high kicks of Tae Kwon Do.
Like Bruce Lee before him, Yen then took his experimentation in the martial sciences to the streets. His family saw that this might end well, so they arranged for him to study with the prestigious Beijing Wushu Team in China, where he went on to become a gold medal winning national champion. Director and fight coordinator Yuen Woo Ping of The Matrix fame cast him in his first starring role in 1984’s Drunken Tai Chi and again in 1994’s Iron Monkey.
He was then seen by Jet Li who also practiced Wushu and invited to be his opponent in 1992’s Once Upon A Time In China II. This led to an acting career that has spanned almost 80 films and cemented his reputation as the screen’s foremost martial artist.
Along the way, Yen has picked up black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He breakdances, sings and does Parkour. Like Bruce Lee who is the god father of mixed martial arts, Yen defines his style as MMA because he incorporates all of his martial arts when he does a fight scene.
And if that wasn’t impressive enough, to prepare for his role in 2008’s Ip Man about Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun teacher, he actually went and learned Wing Chun from Ip Man’s son. Yen is credited with a resurgence of Wing Chung in the Orient trough Ip Man movie and its three sequels.
Other Donnie Yen Classics to Consider
If your new to Hong Kong action or martial arts in general, Donnie Yen and his massive and ever expanding catalogue of films is the place to start. 2005’s Kill Zone has two of the best fights put to film. For a pure MMA fight done right, check out 2007’s Flashpoint.
My favorite Yen film is 2015’s Kung Fu Killer, where a serial killer is murdering all the masters in Hong Kong in mortal combat. In the meantime, let’s show Enter The Fat Dragon some love. It’s box office just got killed because it was pulled from theaters in China to prevent the spread of the Corona virus.
Allow me to end my article with my all time favorite Donnie Yen fight scene from 2007’s Flashpoint (video above). If this doesn’t get you to the dojo, nothing will!