by Leon Hunt, Wallflower Press (17 September 2003)
From the balletic intensity of Bruce Lee to the gravity-defying swordplay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Chinese martial arts film has captured audiences’ imaginations around the world while absorbing influences ranging from Beijing opera to computer games. Its global impact can be seen in the Hollywood crossover of stars such as Jackie Chan and Hong Kong-influenced films such as The Matrix. In this wide-ranging study, Leon Hunt looks at the mythic allure of the Shaolin Temple, the ‘Clones’ of Bruce Lee, gender-bending swordswomen, and the knockabout comedy of Sammo Hung, bringing new insights to a hugely popular yet critically neglected genre. In addition, he considers the impact of new technologies on a genre focused on physical performance, from the ‘wire fu’ of Jet Li to the digital ‘stars’ of console games like Tekken. Films discussed include both popular and cult classics like Game of Death, Fist of Legend, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, and Drunken Master.