The Best Martial Arts Movies: Thailand

Continuing with the theme of Best Martial Arts Movies, The Best will now take you down to Thailand.  Formerly known as Siam, Thailand has a rich and varied history dating back nearly 40,000 years, and is the only southern Asian nation to not be colonized by outsiders.  While political strife has certainly been mentioned many times in the news, Thailand still remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.  While Thailand’s movie industry has been around as long as film-making has been, it’s never really garnered much attention outside of the country.  There was one man who really started to bring attention to the action genre in Thailand: Panna Rittikrai.  You may not know who Panna is, but you probably have heard of his protege, Tony Jaa.  These two guys managed to make some of the most unique and spectacular martial arts films in the industry.  One of the reasons these movies are awesome is because of their use of Muay Thai, Thailand’s national and kickboxing style.  I had heard of the style before Ong-Bak came out, but I never really saw what it was about.  When Ong-Bak was released, it shook the martial arts genre of action films to the core.  We had a new star in Tony Jaa, who is a phenomenal martial artist and athlete.  Because of him, we now have to access to many of Thailand’s action films, now that we know what they can do with action.  Story-wise…they still need some work.  This is The Best Martial Arts Movies: Thailand.

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

It’s almost hard to believe that Ong-Bak was released 13 years ago.  Ong-Bak and Tony Jaa took the world by storm and showed us that you can have high-flying stunt-work without wires.  Tony Jaa was a living special effect, like Jackie Chan.  Ong-Bak follows Tony Jaa’s character, Ting, as he pursues the evil-doers who still the head of their revered statue, Ong-Bak.  The story is nothing more than an excuse for Tony Jaa to kick some righteous ass, and he does that extremely well.  The choreography and stunt-work is as spectacular as it is thrilling.  Tony Jaa does all of his own stunts and acrobatics.  The moment this movie hit the international market, all eyes in the action film genre turned towards Thailand to see what they would come up with next.  Oh, Ong-Bak was just the beginning.

Tom Yum Goong(A.k.a The Protector)


They did it again.  They took what made Ong-Bak so awesome in the first place and dialed it up to 11 with Tom Yum Goong.  Not only are the stunts crazier, but the fights are even more brutal.  This fight scene that I posted takes place near the end of the film, but it is one my favorite fight scenes of all time.  I’ve never seen such a bone-breaking fight in a movie before.  All the fight scenes in the film are phenomenal.  The real standout is the restaurant fight scene which is done in one entire take without cutting.  In fact, I’ll show you:

Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa basically just upped the ante for what an action film could be.  According to Tony Jaa, there were no overly serious injuries during the making of the film.  That’s absolutely crazy considering the stuff that you see here.  Wow is the best word I can to describe a movie like this.  Again, the story is nothing spectacular, but you really don’t go to a movie like this for the story.  It’s definitely worth checking out.


It’s exceptionally rare to find a martial arts film that is truly unique in this day and age.  To find one from Thailand is even more so, but here we are: Chocolate.  Featuring Jeeja Yanin in her feature film debut, Chocolate follows a young autistic girl as she learns martial arts by watching movies and local martial artists.  When she grows up she’s a fully capable martial artist with a few quirks.  Honestly, this movie is better than it has any right to be.  It actually has a pretty decent story with some pretty decent acting.  The standout here is Jeeja Yanin, who is another of Panna Rittikrai’s  proteges.  While Chocolate has some wire-work in it, it still has some very impressive and hard-hitting fight scenes.

Born To Fight(2004)

If there’s one thing that you can take away from these movies, it’s that there is a lot of screaming.  Screaming=drama, apparently.  In all seriousness, Born To Fight has some of the most audacious stunts that I’ve ever seen.  It’s a different kind of movie from what Tony Jaa has made, but the stunts are absolutely stunning.  Panna Rittikrai enlists actual athletes to portray athletes that get caught in the middle of a terrorist attack.  Gymnasts, martial artists, and soccer players.  Panna uses them all.  The film itself is actually a re-make of a film that Rittikrai starred in back in 1986.  Featuring yet ANOTHER one of Panna Rittikrai’s disciples, Dan Chupong, this movie is absolutely bonkers.  It gets pretty brutal at times, but I’m glad it doesn’t pull any punches.

Vengeance of an Assassin

In 2014, Panna Rittikrai passed away from acute liver and kidney failure.  He was 53.  He was Tony Jaa’s mentor and teacher, as well as the fight choreographer for many of Thailand’s modern martial arts flicks.  The last film that he directed was called Vengeance of an Assassin.  This was Panna at his best when it comes to action films.  It has some seriously wild fight choreography, brutal stunts and great camerawork.  It’s wall-to-wall with action.  While he hit some rough spots in his career, there is no doubt in my mind that Panna will be missed by fans of martial arts movies world-wide.  It’s an unexpected loss, but we should appreciate that he had such an amazing career, both as an actor and as a director.  Vengeance of an Assassin is one of his best.

There are other really good Thai martial arts movies, but these are the ones that stood out the most for me.  That will conclude my list for The Best Martial Arts Movies: Thailand.  The next ones will include American and European martial arts films, and The Best Martial Arts Movies will conclude with China.


Unnecessary Sequels and Re-Makes

A while back, I made a post about sequels and re-makes.  I made that post because I felt there needed to be some clarification on what sequels and re-makes actually are.  My opinion was, and still is, that I generally don’t really have an issue with sequels or re-makes as long as they’re done well and at least try to add something new to the franchise or world or whatever.  One could say that no sequel or re-make is necessary.  To a certain extent that point of view is not entirely invalid.  While I personally feel that most of these sequels/re-makes are harmless, there are a bunch out there that really have no reason to exist.  For my post today, I’m going to go over what I feel are the most unnecessary sequels and remakes.  One thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all of these movies are actually bad movies, they just feel like they really don’t belong.  So, let’s get this party started.

Alien Resurrection

This one kind of hurts, because I rather enjoyed this one.  It was a totally off-the-wall, B-level sci-fi movie.  I generally love those kinds of movies.  But that’s also the reason why I feel that it’s completely out of place within the Alien franchise.  The tone of the film is so vastly different from the previous movies that it doesn’t feel like a real sequel.  You’ve got some top-notch talent here, with some pretty solid writing from Joss Whedon, but the campiness of the film really works against it.  Besides, clones?  Really?  Even in 1997, clones were already cliche.  This version of Ripley, played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver, isn’t the real Ripley.  Instead, she’s a clone/alien hybrid.  Alien Resurrection is visually distinctive and has some pretty crazy ideas, but it takes the ending of Alien 3 and throws it out the window.  The first two Alien films are near and dear to my heart, and I hold as equals.  Alien 3 for all the narrative and script problems, felt like a solid conclusion to what is otherwise a bleak, brutal and ultimately fascinating series of movies.  As I said, I don’t hate Alien Resurrection, but it’s too different for it’s own good.

A Good Day To Die Hard

As much as I felt that Live Free or Die Hard was unnecessary, it still felt like a Die Hard movie.  Die Hard 5 is just….NOT Die Hard.  For one, they took John McClane out of New York City and put him in Russia.  That was their first big mistake.  Second:  Not having a memorable villain.  Part of what made the first THREE films so spectacular was their bad guys.  The first movie had the late Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, and Jeremy Irons as the brother in the third film.  McClane was almost ALWAYS outnumbered and could be hurt or possibly die.  He was human.  In Die Hard 5, he’s superhuman.  Don’t get me wrong, the action is pretty damned good, but it feels more generic than anything else.  Sorry folks, A Good Day To Die Hard was not a good day for audiences.

Taken 3

Now, THIS is what I call a shameless cash-grab.  The first Taken was a pretty solid action-thriller with some really intense moments and a solid performance by Liam Neeson.  It opened and closed just fine and didn’t call for a sequel.  But we ended up with Taken 2.  Okay, it’s not half-bad, with a kind of a logical follow-up story.  Taken 3, though, was absolutely uncalled for.  Basically, Liam Neeson’s character is framed for the death of his wife and is on the run from the authorities.  I stated in my review, that this was basically a watered-down version of The Fugitive.  I meant it.  Taken 3 is not the worst movie in the world, but it tries to take a concept that could only work for one movie and stretch it to three.  The result is an incoherent mess of a movie.  Neeson just looks like he’s here for the paycheck.

Terminators 3,4 and 5

The intention of a film’s ending should always be considered when making a sequel.  The original Terminator’s ending deliberately left it wide open, because of the whole Future War with the machines.  As a result, we ended up with Terminator 2, one of the best sequels and science fiction movies ever made.  The ending to T2 was left vague on purpose, because the future was not set, even with the destruction with the Terminator and Cyberdyne.  They wanted you to feel that maybe something could happen, but left it for the audience to determine that.  In 2003, we get Terminator 3 which throws that ending out the window and ended up being an unnecessary entry that just happened to have a ballsy ending.  I loved that ending.  Salvation ended up being a generic post-apocalyptic film that lacked Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Not terrible, just….meh.  Terminator Genisys, at least attempted to try something different, even if it didn’t particularly succeed.  Ultimately, though, I feel that Terminator 2 was where the movies should have ended.  The books that followed in the early 2000’s were phenomenal and set up the future war LOGICALLY.  In T3, it’s assumed that Judgment Day is inevitable.  In the T2 books, Judgment Day happens, because Cyberdyne had more than one building and multiple back-ups.  A company like that SHOULD have back-ups in case of a situation like Terminator 2.  The movie sequels past number 2, just don’t make any kind of sense.  They’re fun to watch and not terrible movies, but they didn’t really need to be made.

Ip Man 2

This one is painful, because I really loved the first and third movies.  The problem with this one is that we have an over-the-top, mustache-twirling western boxer who is bullying the Chinese.  I’ve seen this kind of kung fu movie before many times.  We have the West that thinks they can walk all over the Chinese and they have only person who can stop the foreigners.  It’s not a terrible set-up, but Ip Man comes across as a superhero here.  The fight choreography is also problematic, especially during the fight between Ip Man and Sammo Hung’s character.  The whole movie seemed like a step backwards from the first Ip Man.


I’m only assuming that this film was made because the film-makers felt that the original Martyrs was just too brutal for American audiences to sit through.  The original French film was brutal and unrelenting.  It was also a completely unforgettable experience.  It’s not exactly one that I would watch over and over again, but it was extremely intense.  The re-make lacks the complete visceral punch that the original film had.  The new movie, while following the original film for the first half, takes a different turn afterwards and feels like your typical “victim fights back” ordeal.  The original film was very bleak and mostly hopeless.  This one has an ending that seems hopeful.  It’s not even as violent as the original movie.  Most of the violence is heard and not seen, and while that has an artistic merit of sorts, it robs the film of its potential power.


This one pisses me off, and it’s not even out yet.  Why is it that you would take one of the greatest movies of all-time and remake it for a modern audience?  I would have thought that the original Charlton Heston film would have been enough.  Yeah, it was 3.5 hours long, but that’s part of what made it an epic.  It’s a huge sprawling story with themes of vengeance, forgiveness and redemption.  What we have here appears to be a CGI-infested action film.  The original film worked because it was all done for real with the exception of some miniatures, especially that chariot race.  Nobody had done anything like that before, and no one has attempted it since.  I could be wrong, and this could end up being a good movie, but from what I’ve seen, it looks cheap.  Ben-Hur deserves better than this.  This one hits theaters in August.

There are many more unnecessary sequels and re-makes out there, and they will continue to be made.  These are just some of the ones that I tend to take issue with.  As I have stated, most of these really aren’t terrible movies, they just don’t feel like they belong anywhere.  Anyways.  Those are my thoughts on the subject.

Twin Daggers

Released: July 2008

Director: Kuen-Hou Chen

Rated R

Run Time: 90 Minutes

Distributor: LionsGate Studios

Genre: Action, Martial Arts

Veronica Bero: Body
Joey Covington: Flex
Vasilios E.: Ghost
Rhett Giles: Scholar
Coco Su: Kay/Sue

As a huge fan of the martial arts, it’s been an extraordinary privilege to see some incredible films in the genre.  From Enter The Dragon to Ip Man and Ong-Bak, the genre has recently seen a huge surge in quality martial arts films.  However, the ratio of good martial arts films to bad is about 50:50.  For every Police Story, you get a Remo Williams.  It’s a bizarre trade-off.  Thankfully, I’m familiar enough with the genre to recommend the best ones and the worst ones to avoid.  Most of Steven Seagal’s films you can generally ignore, although some of his earlier ones are truly exceptional.  But there are very few that come close to the level of awfulness that is Twin Daggers.  I would personally consider this post to be a Public Service Announcement.  Why?  because Twin Daggers is, as my British friends would say, absolute bollocks.

Set in 1935’s Los Angeles, the film follows a group of assassins as they are hired by a lovely young woman to kill her twin sister, because she apparently killed their parents.  That’s the story.  Period.  Full stop.  You know, setting a martial arts film in the 1930’s in the US is NOT a bad idea.  It could very well work.  It just doesn’t work with Twin Daggers.  I honestly believe that Twin Daggers should be used as an example for false advertising, or at the very least, incompetent advertising.  Don’t let that cover art fool you, there is no Shaolin Temple in the movie and the two characters on that cover don’t show up in the movie at all.  But that’s the least of the film’s problems.

The action in the film MIGHT have been alright if the editing wasn’t so piss-poor.  The cuts are so completely random, you can’t tell what’s going on.  Not to mention the horrendous close-ups.  It’s very obvious that the actors in the film are not martial artists, so they have to use stunt doubles.  Fair enough, if it wasn’t for the fact that you could tell that they were stunt doubles.  I kid you not, the moment we are seeing Rhett Gile’s character in a fight and when the camera pulls back, the character has a completely DIFFERENT head of hair!  Did the film-makers think the audience was that stupid?  Even if you had barely dabbled in film-making, you would know that if you have stunt doubles, they need to look like the actor.  That’s why they’re called DOUBLES.  It’s basic fucking film-making 101.  Let’s also not forget the fact that they tried to cover up the horrendous choreography by speeding up the camera.  I honestly wish I was lying, but I’m not.  They sped up the camera during some of the fight scenes to try and make it look exciting.  The wire-work is unbelievably ridiculous.  I’ve seen short films on YouTube that had better fight choreography.

While we’re kicking the film while it’s down, let’s rip on the acting, shall we?  Rhett Giles?  Really?  He’s a B-Grade, low-level direct-to-video actor that has absolutely NO talent whatsoever.  He’s no martial artist.  He’s not even trying.  Everything else is so over-the-top and yet so under-cooked.  Honestly, I though Mortal Kombat Annihilation was a pretty bad martial arts movie, but it least it actually employs SOME actors that are martial artists.  Remo Williams had the benefit of just being so bad it’s good.  Twin Daggers is absolute garbage in every sense of the word.  Also:  Fuck that Kung Fu mime.  Just…no.  Don’t see this one, if you see it on a store shelf, do them a favor and throw it in the trash.  You may just end up being a hero.  My final verdict is: 1 Kung Fu Mime/10.

The Best Martial Arts Films: Indonesia

Of all the countries that have produced martial arts films, Indonesia is one of the most unique.  Why?  There are a number of reasons.  One:  It’s a very conservative country in terms of its culture and people.  Two:  It’s the birth-place of Pencak Silat, Kuntao, Fitimaen(stick fighting), and Terung Derajat.  While these systems have been strongly influenced by Chinese martial arts, they have their own unique spin on combat and self-defense.  Pencak Silat, like Chinese Kung Fu, emphasizes the external which is the physical training.  It also pays great attention to the internal, which is the essence of combat and self-defense.  Any part of the body is used.  Silat uses strikes, grabs, locks and weapons.  It was also designed to be used in any environment, whether it’s in a wide-open space or in tight spaces.  It has to be flexible like that to be effective.  It’s certainly one of the most brutal styles that I’ve ever seen, but it makes for an awesome basis for an action movie, and Indonesia’s got some pretty fantastic martial arts flicks.  This is my list for The Best Martial Arts Films: Indonesia.



Merantau is the feature film debut of Silat experts Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, who would continue to team in some of the other films on this list.  This is the first real big action movie out of Indonesia, and it took the world by storm.  Featuring not only an amazing style of combat, but Iko Uwais is a revelation is far actors go.  Not only is he a great martial artist, he’s a fantastic actor.  The story of Merantau features Iko’s character venturing out into the real world for the first time only to end up getting embroiled in the crime of human trafficking.  Directed by Welsh director, Gareth EvansMerantau is a phenomenal martial arts flick that not only has some of the most amazing fight scenes I’ve ever, which includes the elevator fight scene just above, it also takes the issue of human trafficking seriously, even though it’s not particularly realistic.  The fight scenes are absolutely crazy.  For a first major action film out of Indonesia, this one is a serious gem.  Highly recommended.

The Raid


Merantau was such an astounding hit in Indonesia and the rest of the world, how could possibly top that?  The answer:  The Raid.  Released in 2011, The Raid has been widely regarded as one of the best action movies of the decade and the best action film of 2011, and it’s really hard to disagree.  Iko Uwais stars as Rama, a member of an elite police unit sent into an apartment complex run by a vicious drug lord.  The result is a non-stop action film from beginning to end.  The first 15-20 minutes are basically a gun fight, but it’s all hand-to-hand combat afterwards.  The hall-way fight scene above is one of the MANY incredible fight scenes in the film, and it’s been featured on a number of HORROR movie websites, that’s how brutal it is.  I’m telling you, though, if it’s action you want, it’s action you will get.  Like MerantauThe Raid was an enormous international success.  After the film’s release, Gareth Evans began work on a sequel.  Speaking of which:

The Raid 2

The follow-up to The Raid is more of a crime thriller than a full-on action flick.  But don’t let that fool you into thinking that they skimped on the fights.  They didn’t.  In fact, some of these fights, including the infamous kitchen fight are even more violent than the film’s predecessor.  Iko Uwais once again plays Rama, who goes undercover to infiltrate a crime family to bring them down.  Raid 2: Berandal not only features an awesome story, it’s also got some really impressive acting and fight sequences.  The individual fight scenes for Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl are just some of the other highlights.  I leave it to you to find those on YouTube.  Awesome, is all I can say.  Also, the kitchen fight scene is an astounding 6 minutes long.  It gets brutal.  I wasn’t kidding when I posted that warning.

The Golden Cane Warrior

The only movie on this list that doesn’t feature Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, The Golden Cane Warrior is Indonesia’s answer to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  This film features Fitimaen as the main style of combat.  It’s not exactly well-known, but it is pretty spectacular.  The film follows a group of students training to be the future keeper of the legendary Golden Cane, when two of the students betray their master and seek the weapon for themselves.  I mentioned Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, because the stories are very similar in many regards.  Story-wise, there’s nothing original here.  It’s not bad, but I’ve seen it before.  The plus-side is that it’s still a pretty good story that has some decent acting and some pretty wild martial arts.  The Golden Cane Warrior is the only movie on this list that employs the use of wires in the fighting.  It’s a period fantasy piece, so I’m absolutely okay with it.  The final fight of the film is great, although the conclusion is slightly anti-climactic.  Overall, it’s a beautiful film featuring some of Indonesia’s spectacular scenery.

Overall, I’m extremely impressed with the action films that Indonesia has produced.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen martial arts flicks that intense in a long time.  I’m absolutely curious as to what’s coming next.  Iko Uwais is reportedly going to reprise his role of Rama for The Raid 3, but he’s already begun to branch out into international film territory.  Hell, he and Yayan even showed up in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  It was a brief appearance, but it was still awesome.  If you’re looking for top-notch and brutal action movies, Indonesia is one of the best stops.