Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part VIII – Donnie Yen In The “Post Yip” Era

Finally startin to look his age...

A long time ago I wrote that I felt that director Wilson Yip was probably the best thing to ever happen to Donnie Yen’s career.

First teaming up in 2005 for the cop drama/action flick SPL, the 2 would end up collaborating on 5 consecutive films.

With the sole exception of the somewhat lackluster Dragon Tiger Gate, all of said films were of stellar quality; easily ranking as some of the best in Mr. Yen’s career.

While Yen’s incredible longevity allowed him to effectively outlast the majority of his contemporaries, namely Jet Li and Jackie Chan; and his innovative fighting performance and choreography skills certainly put him ahead of the pack, this writer would argue that Wilson Yip’s cinematographic skills and eye for detail had just as much to do with his rise to prominence as any of the aforementioned factoids.

Besides, any man that makes shit like Bio Zombie clearly knows what theyre doing. No sarcasm intended.

That being said, it’s now 2011; and while he’s been detached from Wilson Yip ever since the production of Ip Man 2, Donnie Yen is still the reigning king of Hong Kong screen fighters.

So, why am I not happy?

I’m just about as big a Donnie Yen fan as you’ll ever meet, but truth be told; as much as I like the man’s work, like most screen fighters he’s made an alarming number of shitty movies.

In fact, if you don’t count Blade 2; a movie he choreographed by held maybe 5 minutes of screen time in, I don’t think I’ve genuinely liked a non-Wilson Yip Donnie Yen movie since Shanghai Affairs back in ’98, and even that kind of sucked.

Sadly, now that Yen doesn’t seem to have any projects lined up with Wilson Yip in the foreseeable future; I’m left feeling like things are going to go back to the way they were, with Donnie Yen steadily churning out crap movies with decent fights.

...Or in the case of the Twins Effect movies, crappy movies with crappy fights. Thats Jackie Chan on the right by the way.

Despite an astoundingly well cut trailer for it’s U.S. release, make no mistake Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zhen, Yen’s first film of the “Post Yip Era”; is most assuredly hot garbage.

I own a Hong Kong blu ray of Legend of the Fist, and while Yen’s physical performance was actually pretty amazing, as detailed here; the movie itself was one of the most boring kung fu movies I’ve seen in a long time.

At present, Mr. Yen has a handful of movies on his plate, most notably a mysterious Peter Chan film called Swordsmen, and 2 other films titled The Lost Bladesman and The Monkey King.

I’ve purposely decided to forego any mention of the most recent All’s Well, Ends Well, as while it does in fact include Donnie Yen in it’s cast; no force on Earth could make me see it as a “Donnie Yen film.”

Yeah, not exactly high on my "must see" list...

Anyway, The Lost Bladesman sees Donnie Yen taking on the role of famed Chinese general and folk hero Guan Yu in a wuxia film.

Trailers for this one have been popping up pretty regularly as of late, with most of the footage doing little to light a fire in my pants.

Sure, it has Donnie Yen.

Sure he’s hitting people while sporting a pimp beard and guan dao.

Even so, the production values seem a little below standard, and the cinematography and choreography seem about on par with the mediocrity of Yen’s own 14 Blades.

For those that may be unaware, any film that draws comparisons to 14 Blades has it’s work cut out for it in terms of not sucking.

Pictured: Donnie Yen squaring off against Captain Jack Sparrow.

That leaves 2012’s The Monkey King as the one Yen movie to bear the weight of making up for the past couple of years of “meh.”

While it’s certainly far off in terms of being released, in all honesty; The Monkey King actually seems like it might be worth the wait.

No footage exists as of yet, but given that the story is a retelling of the Journey to the West, essentially the Chinese myth of myths; and given the incredible assortment of talent involved in the production, I’ve got a good feeling about it.

Sure, it’ll probably be CGI’d to shit and make Donnie Yen look like a complete goof ball; but the art style of the poster and Cheang Pou Soi’s involvement as director will likely make up for it.

I don't know about you, but if you ask me that's a pretty awesome fuckin' poster.

Seriously man, if the same Cheang Pou Soi that made Dog Bite Dog and Shamo shows up for this one, we’re in for one helluva’ ride.

Despite all the pessimism of everything mentioned above, let it be known; I remain hopeful for Donnie Yen’s career.

In many ways, I think my “disappointment” in some of his recent projects spawns from my general lack of enthusiasm for mainland China productions as compared to Hong Kong ones.

Wuxia works when it works, but for the most part it’s not what you’d call my favorite genre.

Whatever the future holds for Mr. Yen, I only hope that whatever crappy or mediocre productions he’s involved in continue to be the fault of writers and directors as opposed to Donnie Yen himself…

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8 Responses

  1. Ipodman says:

    Nice thoughtful post. To me, I think the problem is not only with Donnie Yen and his poor choice of movies, but it’s also the entire Hong Kong cinema in general. Ever since Ip Man became so popular, it seems like every movie now wants to emulate that “kung fu magic” or whatever…

    • aznbadger says:

      I’m not sure I agree. I think the problem isn’t that everyone’s trying to emulate Ip Man, I think the problem is that both of those films raised the bar a little too high. Besides maybe Fearless, which was directed by Ronny Yu; a visualist if ever there was one, I can think of no other non-art house kung fu movie that can measure up to universal appeal, and beauty and elegance of Ip Man.

  2. Ipodman says:

    You have a point there, Ip Man was definitely very dramatic and had good kung fu scenes… but I’m saying that every Hong Kong movie nowadays wants to emulate the Ip Man because it was so popular and Hong Kong cinema now just wants to exploit it’s success. It’s like when Jaws first came out, and then suddenly every month you had at least one new shark movie.

    I didn’t know there was a Donnie Yen Monkey King movie coming out… that should be interesting to watch just to see what they can do with this kind of fantastical stories… I really hated Storm Warriors (or Riders or whatever… the second one) Yikes

    • aznbadger says:

      Yeah, the “Storm” movies sucked some serious balls, due in no small part to insufficient budget and production values. I’m enthusiastic about The Monkey King because it’s healthy production period, combined with the top flight talent involved give the impression that they’re going balls out with it. It’ll probably end up just being eye candy in the end, but oh well; better than being cheap and ugly like 14 Blades and Storm Riders.

  3. Ipodman says:

    I’ll be honest, I don’t really like Donnie Yen as an actor… his face looks very stiff to me. That’s why I’m not totally on board with the Ip Man films, because I cannot bring myself to support someone that feels like a fighting robot rather than an actual human.

    • aznbadger says:

      Haha, I don’t think anyone likes Donnie Yen as an actor. I was happy with his restrained performance as Ip Man, however it’s hard to deny that the copious amounts of cosmetic facial surgery he’s had over the years have done a serious number on his ability to emote. My favorite Donnie Yen acting performances are the ones where he’s basically playing an over the top uber-cocky version of himself. Try counting how many times he puts his hands on his hips and looks at people accusingly in SPL. You’d go blind if you made that shit into a drinking game…

  4. Ipodman says:

    Haha… I didn’t know he had facial surgery… o.O

    It’s funny how teens nowadays think that Donnie Yen is some kind of inspiring kung fu fellow who fights for the Chinese people against the Westerners. I doubt most Ip Man fans even know what the real Ip Man looks like lol -.-

    • aznbadger says:

      Yeah, even funnier is the staggering number of people who think Donnie Yen as the new kid on the block. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people run up to me and ask: “Hey, have you heard of this guy Donnie Yen?” I usually just respond by putting my hands on my hips and glare at them accusingly just like the Yen-meister himself.

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