These Mandarin productions were more lavish and in colour; their style was less fantastical and more intense, with stronger and more acrobatic violence. They were influenced by imported samurai movies from Japan and by the wave of "New School" wuxia novels by authors like Jin Yong and Liang Yusheng that started in the s. Even so, during the s female action stars like Cheng Pei-pei and Connie Chan Po-chu were prominent alongside male stars, such as former swimming champion Jimmy Wang Yu , and they continued an old tradition of female warriors in wuxia storytelling.
Hu soon left Shaw Brothers to pursue his own vision of wuxia with independent productions in Taiwan , such as the enormously successful Dragon Inn , aka Dragon Gate Inn. Chang stayed on and remained the Shaws' prolific star director into the early s. The s kung fu wave[ edit ] The early s saw wuxia giving way to a new, grittier and more graphic and Mandarin -speaking iteration of the kung fu movie, which came to dominate through the decade and into the early s.
Seriously trained martial artists such as Ti Lung and Gordon Liu became some of the top stars as increasing proportions of running times were devoted to combat setpieces. Chinese Boxer , starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, is widely credited with launching the kung fu boom. But remaining at the vanguard, at least initially, were Shaw Brothers and director Chang Cheh. Chang's Vengeance was another of the first trendsetters and his dozens of contributions included The Boxer from Shantung , Five Deadly Venoms and Crippled Avengers Kung fu cinema was particularly influenced by Chang's concern with his vision of masculine values and male friendship;  the female warrior figures who had been prominent in late s wuxia work were sidelined, with prominent exceptions such as the popular Angela Mao.
Lau began directing his own movies for the Shaw brothers in with The Spiritual Boxer, a progenitor of the kung fu comedy. In subsequent titles like Executioners from Shaolin , The 36th Chamber of Shaolin , and Legendary Weapons of China , Lau emphasized the traditions and philosophy of the martial arts and strove to give onscreen fighting greater authenticity and ever greater speed and intricacy. In the West, kung fu imports, dubbed and often recut and retitled, shown as "B" films in urban theaters and on television, made Hong Kong film widely noticed, although not widely respected, for the first time.
In popular culture, the films of this era were colloquially known as Kung Fu Theater or Black Belt Theater, names that many independent stations used for their weekly airing slot.
Bruce Lee[ edit ] No single figure was more responsible for this international profile than Bruce Lee , an American-born, Hong Kong-raised martial artist and actor. Lee completed just four movies before his death at the age of Eastern film historian Patrick Macias ascribes his success to " bringing the warrior spirit of old into the present day Furthermore, his decision at the outset to work for young, upstart studio Golden Harvest , rather than accept the Shaws' notoriously tightfisted standard contract, was a factor in Golden Harvest's meteoric rise and Shaw's eventual decline.
The fad did little to engender mainstream respect in the West for the relatively new phenomenon of martial arts cinema. But despite such posthumous treatment, Lee continues to cast a long shadow over Hong Kong film.
Like many kung fu performers of the day, Chan came out of training in Peking opera and started in film as a stuntman , notably in some of Lee's vehicles. The resulting blend of physical comedy and kung fu action provided Chan with his first hit and the rudiments of what would become his signature style. Chan's follow-up movie with Yuen, Drunken Master also , and his directorial debut, The Fearless Hyena , were also giant hits and cemented his popularity.
The white eyebrows speak of extraordinary power on the part of the character. Although these films were not the first kung fu comedies, they launched a vogue that helped reinvigorate the waning kung fu genre. Especially notable in this regard were two of Chan's childhood Peking Opera School classmates, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao , who also made careers of this specialty, sometimes co-starring with Chan.
Hung, noted for the seeming paradox of his overweight physique and physical agility, also made a name for himself as a director and action choreographer from early on, with titles like Enter the Fat Dragon Reinventing action cinema[ edit ] Chan's clowning may have helped extend the life of the kung fu wave for several years.
Nevertheless, he became a star towards the end of the boom, and would soon help move the colony towards a new type of action. In the s, he and many colleagues would forge a slicker, more spectacular Hong Kong pop cinema that would successfully compete with the post- Star Wars summer blockbusters from America.
Jackie Chan and the modern martial arts film[ edit ] In , Jackie Chan began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences in Dragon Lord ,  which featured a pyramid fight scene that holds the record for the most takes required for a single scene, with takes,  and the final fight scene where he performs various stunts, including one where he does a back flip off a loft and falls to the lower ground. His first film in this vein, Project A , saw the official formation of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and added elaborate, dangerous stunts to the fights and typical slapstick humor at one point, Chan falls from the top of a clock tower through a series of fabric canopies.
Here was Chan dangling from a speeding bus, sliding down a pole covered with exploding light bulbs, and destroying large parts of a shopping centre and a hillside shantytown. The sequel called for explosions on a scale similar to many Hollywood movies and seriously injured leading lady Maggie Cheung - an occupational risk Chan had already grown used to.
Thus Jackie Chan created the template for the contemporary urban action-comedy of the s, combining cops, kung fu and all the bodybreaking potential of the modern city with its glass, metal and speeding vehicles.
With movies like the spy spoof Aces Go Places and its sequels, Cinema City helped make modern special effects, James Bond -type gadgets and big vehicular stunts part of the industry vernacular.
He led the way in replacing the rough and ready camera style of s kung fu with glossier and more sophisticated visuals and ever more furious editing. John Woo and the triad films[ edit ] See also: Woo's saga of cops and the triads Chinese gangsters combined fancifully choreographed and extremely violent gunplay with heightened emotional melodrama, sometimes resembling a modern-dress version of s kung fu films by Woo's mentor Chang Cheh.
The formula broke another all-time box office record. It also jump-started the faltering career of co-star Chow Yun-fat , who overnight became one of the colony's most popular idols and Woo's favorite leading man.
They were usually marked by an emphasis on the fraternal bonds of duty and affection among the criminal protagonists. The most notable other auteur of these themes was Ringo Lam , who offered a less romanticized take in such films as City on Fire , Prison on Fire both , and Full Contact , all starring Chow Yun-Fat. The genre and its creators were accused in some quarters of cravenly glorifying real-life triads, whose involvement in the film business was notorious.
Wire fu and Wuxia As the triad films petered out in the early s, period martial arts returned as the favored action genre.
But this was a new martial arts cinema that took full advantage of technical strides as well the higher budgets that came with Hong Kong's dominance of the region's screens. These lavish productions were often adapted from the more fantastical wuxia novels, which featured flying warriors in mid-air combat.
Performers were trussed up on ultrathin wires to allow them to conduct gravity-defying action sequences, a technique known by Western fans, sometimes disparagingly, as wire fu.
He produced Swordsman , which reestablished the wuxia novels of Jin Yong as favorite big-screen sources television adaptations had long been ubiquitous. Both films were followed by sequels and a raft of imitations, often starring Mainland wushu champion Jet Li. The other signature star of the subgenre was Taiwanese-born actress Brigitte Lin. She made an unlikely specialty of androgynous woman-warrior types, such as the villainous, sex-changing eunuch in The Swordsman 2 , epitomizing martial arts fantasy's often-noted fascination with gender instability.
Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. May Learn how and when to remove this template message All of these developments not only made Hong Kong the dominant cinema in East Asia , but reawakened Western interest.
Building on the reduced but enduring kung fu movie subculture, Jackie Chan and films like Tsui Hark's Peking Opera Blues were already building a cult following when Woo's The Killer had a limited but successful release in the U. In the '90s, Westerners with an eye on "alternative" culture became common sights in Chinatown video shops and theaters, and gradually the films became more available in the mainstream video market and even occasionally in mainstream theaters.
Western critics and film scholars also began to take Hong Kong action cinema seriously and made many key figures and films part of their canon of world cinema. From here, Hong Kong came to define a new vocabulary for worldwide action cinema, with the aid of a new generation of North American filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino 's Reservoir Dogs drew inspiration from City on Fire and his two-part Kill Bill —04 was in large part a martial arts homage, borrowing Yuen Woo-Ping as fight choreographer and actor.
The Wachowski brothers ' The Matrix trilogy — of science-fiction-action blockbusters borrowed from Woo and wire fu movies and also employed Yuen behind the scenes. Exit of many leading figures[ edit ] Due to the new-found international awareness of Hong Kong films during the s and early s and a downturn in the industry as the s progressed, many of the leading lights of Hong Kong cinema left for Hollywood , which offered budgets and pay which could not be equalled by Hong Kong production companies.
John Woo left for Hollywood after his film Hard Boiled. Since these two films, Woo has struggled to revisit his successes of the s and early s. Since then, he has made several highly successful films for U.
Between his films for U. Nice Guy and Who Am I? Because of his enormous U. After a minor role in Lethal Weapon 4 , he has gone on to star in several Hollywood films which have performed respectably and made a name for him with American audiences. So far, he has returned to Chinese cinema for only two films: Hero and Fearless He claimed Fearless would be his last traditional kung fu film. Chow Yun-fat has also moved to Hollywood.
After his film Peace Hotel , he has made a handful of films in Hollywood which have not seen as much success as Jet Li's: Recent trends[ edit ] The Hong Kong film industry has been in a severe slump since the mids.
The number of local films produced, and their box office takings, are dramatically reduced; American imports now dominate in a way they had not for decades, or perhaps ever.
This crisis and increased contact with Western cinema have probably been the biggest recent influences on Hong Kong action cinema.
Action movies are now generally headlined by babyfaced Cantonese pop music idols, such as Ekin Cheng and Nicholas Tse , enhanced with wires and digital effects - a trend also driven by the waning of a previous generation of martial arts-trained stars.
The late s witnessed a fad for Cantopop stars in high-tech, more American-styled action pictures such as Downtown Torpedoes , Gen-X Cops and Purple Storm both Andrew Lau 's wuxia comic-book adaptation The Storm Riders earned a record-breaking gross and ushered in an era of computer-generated imagery , previously little used in Hong Kong film.
Andrew Lau and Alan Mak 's blockbuster Infernal Affairs trilogy — has set off a mini-trend of brooding police thrillers. Hong Kong stars and other personnel have been involved in international wuxia successes like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , Hero and House of Flying Daggers