By: John M Jerva
Welcome to FOOT FIST FRIDAYS! A weekly dose of fight action where the Action-Flix.com experts share their thoughts on some of the greatest scenes of fisticuffs in action cinema history!
This week’s edition of Foot Fist Fridays features two of Asia’s most exciting and legendary martial arts action stars as Donnie Yen and Wu Jing face off in the classic alley fight from SPL (Saat po long) . It’s fast, it’s brutal and it leaves you sweating just as if you were the one involved in the scene. The film which was the beginning to Yen’s MMA infused films delivers the goods and electrifies the air with martial arts mastery!
When you think of Foot Fist Fridays, one has to immediately think of a few action stars who have starred in a host of films that featured iconic brawls. This week, we have two such men in Donnie Yen and Wu Jing who got the chance to square off in 2005’s SPL which was helmed by Wilson Yip who has teamed up with Yen for numerous Asian action hits. With SPL or Kill Zone as it was known in the U.S. was the first film where Donnie started to implement MMA style fighting into his choreography and while this scene I have chosen for the week doesn’t really fall under that category, it still is one of the best and brutal fights Donnie has ever done.
Ironically, SPL wasn’t supposed to be a fight film at the beginning. When Donnie came on board and became the action coordinator, he requested that additional funds be available to craft the film’s two epic fights. The first fight is the alley altercation towards the end of the film where Donnie’s character of police detective Ma Kwan faces off against Sammo Hung’s villainous henchman Jack played by Wu Jing who would later go on to make the Wolf Warrior films. The second fight is the climatic duel of legends between Donnie and Sammo which resultd in the shocking ending where no one escaped unscathed. It was truly a sad finale.
It’s easy to pick the Donnie and Sammo fight as the best but for me, the tightly paced and fierce scrape between Kwan and Jack was always my favorite from the film as both Yen and Jing get the chance to execute their lightning fisted moves with Jing nearly upstaging Yen with his lethal precision. Add in knives and batons and this is one of the best and most ferocious fights ever captured on film.
Yen is a master craftsman in the art of film fighting and here he pulls out all the stops and gives himself and Jing ample opportunity to shine in the scene which lasts just over four minutes. Now what I love most about this fight is the fact that while both actors are known for their insane kicking abilities, they don’t throw one kick at all. Instead, the audience is treated to a jaw dropping display of lightning fisted hand and weapon techiniques that has to be seen to be believed. Both men are moving so fast they you could swear that the film was sped up but no sir. These elite professionals are moving that fast and there is no room for error as Yen is armed with a baton and Jing is wielding a nasty blade. You can literally feel every impact that both men absorb.
To know that both actors had to memorize thousands of intricate techniques for this scene is mind boggling and it just hammers the point home on how expertly trained they are. It’s insane to watch and I think I’ve watched this particular scene over a thousand times. Fights involving weapons has always been one of my favorite types of on screen combat and this is certainly a master class in itself.
Don’t get me wrong. The finale between Yen and Hung is classic in its own right and it features all the aerial kicks that you could want but this alley fight will always be at the top of the list for me.
Now in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer, “Enough Talk!” It’s time to watch two masters in action and it definitely is mano a mano at its finest!