My friends, you may think I have been neglecting you. In the past month or two I have abandoned all my discipline and stopped doing the column weekly. I haven’t been reviewing all that many movies. I’ve been staying pretty much away from the computers of the internet except for Writing the occasional Ain’t It Cool News joke talk back message under the name “Darth Superman.”
The truth is I’m doing you a big fucking favor. I’m cutting down on my Writing. Focussing it. Putting my emphasis on what matters to me most, like honor, respect, and breaking a motherfuckers legs. I’m hoping less Writing = less crap, and therefore, better Writing. So you get to waste less time reading it, plus it’ll be better. That’s the theory, anyway.
But my friends this week I come to you with news on a great movie which happens to not be a Badass movie in my opinion. I know some of my colleagues in Badass Studies will disagree since this is a movie made up of many excellent fighting scenes and since one of the stars happens to be Mr. Chow Yun Fat star of the best action movie of the ’90s. But to me the highly acclaimed picture Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not so much about fighting as it is about love and woman empowerment and graceful movement. It’s more like a musical or one a them tapdancing movies they made back then with all the singing and umbrellas and what not. And I ain’t making excuses like the other critics, because I’d RATHER say it was a kung fu movie, and I loved it. But facts are facts, and this is a tap dancing movie. I ain’t complainin though cause it’s the best tap dancing movie I seen in years.
My man Fat gets to perform stunts like I never seen him before, because he’s doing all kinds of kung fu and great swordsmanshipping. In case you don’t know not all chinese dudes know kung fu, and I never seen Fat do it before. Always using guns. Maybe a punch now and then but very rarely kicking. Here he’s flyin around like a god damn superman, flippin the swords around like WHISH WHISH WHISH and who the fuck even KNOWS what some a those weapons are called that he’s using. These guys know how to USE the things, we americans can’t even NAME them. That’s how far ahead of us Fat is.
But like I said, this is a tapdancing movie. Not a Badass movie. And Fat is one fuck of a tapdancer. What he has, more than a cold stare and a cool way to balance a toothpick on his lip, even more than being real damn handsome, and I can say that knowing it doesn’t compromise my masculinity because by now every man on earth has admitted it about this particular fella. But Chow Yun Fat has the charisma.
I mean it’s like whatsisdick. Cary Grant. Errol Flynn. These type a motherfuckers. I can’t remember which one is which to be honest, but whichever one of those dudes who was the most charisma-y. That’s Chow Yun Fat. He has the presence and what not. The slickness. I hate to say it boys but guys like you and me can train with swords and lift weights for ten hundred years, we’ll still never have what Chow Yun Fat has. Because what matters here is not how hard he hits, or even how fast he swings the sword. It’s the light touch that matters. In one of the unforgettable scenes in this picture, he has a sword fight on top of trees. On his tippy toes. With real thing branches. Waving in the wind. That’s not so much Badass as it is suave. I mean that’s how you get dates, youngsters. The suave shit.
Hell, we could all get makeovers and graduate magna cume loud from charm school, we’re still gonna every once in a while puke into a gutter or cough up some blood or get pissed at a dude for almost running us over and punch through his window and show up for dinner with a towel around our fist and blood dripping out or, who knows what we’ll do but we’ll do something that Fat would never do. Because he’s Cary Grant. Or whichever one.
And the thing is, he’s not even the star of this movie. That would be an adorable 19 year old little girl named Zang Yiyi who plays Jen, the engaged aristocrat’s daughter. In the daytime she dresses like Princess Yumyum or whatever her name was in Star Trek Phantom Menace. At night, she sneaks out wearing a black mask, steals Fat’s sword, flies around and beats the shit out of every motherfucker that comes her way. She’s this dainty little thing but she fights so good that everybody ignores their eyes and just calls her “he.” And she kicks and she hits and she breaks through floors and stairs and she takes on big guys and rough guys and multiple guys and guys waving weird chinese weapons and giant metal clubs and she kicks every single ass she comes across. Every one.
But fellas, lets not get carried away. This is not a break the bottle on your neck, puke the blood in your face, hit your head against the parking meter until quarters fall out kind of fight scene. This is tapdancing.
As everybody knows, so who knows why I mention it, this choreography is by one of the best, Yuen Wo Ping, the director of Drunken Master, the choreographer of The Matrix, the brother of the guy who choreographed Charlie’s Angels. And this first fight scene will probaly be one of his proudest moments ever. This is a stunning achievement of rhythm and movement, and it builds in speed and excitement until the end. Michelle Yeoh, and I don’t know why I didn’t mention her yet but yes she’s in this one fellas, she fights cute little Jen. And the two of them hop across roof tops and dance up and down walls and even bump their feet against each other like those two rappers used to do, the one regular guy and the one with the giant hair. Remember those guys? It’s like that, but alot better though.
And then when the fighting stops there is some talking, and we find out about the tragic unrequitted type love between Michelle and Fat. And we see how Jen idolizes Michelle and how Michelle knows what Jen is up to but doesn’t want to embarrass her, and how Fat wants to kill Jen’s master but likes Jen herself so tries to get her to join him. And then Jen runs off in the desert and starts beating up/kissing a dirty bandit named Lo. And unlike many kung fu films I’ve seen, I actually cared about all this nonsense. About the relationships and what not. And by the end, when Michell and Jen face off, I was like JESUS that’s cold, how could you say she’s not a true friend. You see? What I’m saying here is that the emotions and the relationships are what you’re excited about, in addition to the kicking and hitting each other with swords. And when the story and the asskicking comes together so organically that makes every blow more powerful, cinematastically speaking. in my opinion.
Now I know for a fact that this is not the first one of these flying kung fu movies. And it’s also not the first one that combines the sensitive lover story, Jane Austin period melodrama type deal with the flying around kung fu. All the magazines are saying, “Only Ang Lee would come up with this!” even though it’s really a whole genre over there in Hong Kong and what not.
BUT, that said, this is one of the best of those type of movies, out of the couple I’ve seen. I mean this motherfucker is ELEGANT. I like the heroic trio girls, but those are noisy movies, lots of WHOOSH and ZAPPP and CHHHOOOOSSSHHHCCCHHH whenever they fly. Not here. This is a quiet movie. No explosions. Sometimes there is music but sometimes you just hear the little pitterpatter of those little kung fu booties rubbing against the roofs. A little wiff or a ffftt here and there but not many WHOOSHes.
And you know what they did, the ladies and gentlemen who released this picture? They released it AS IS. They didn’t dub it into American and retitle it “Fatal Dragon” or “Enemy Tiger” or “Armor of God 3: Hidden Dragon”. They didn’t cut out half an hour. They didn’t add “Who Let the Dogs Out” into part of it to make it more current. Hell they didn’t even show Jet Li on the poster with his Lethal Weapon 4 haircut. And yet, the theater was packed. And the motherfuckers loved it. They clapped at the opening credits, and the end credits, and at particular moments, and especially at the end of the first fight scene. I mean that was spontaneous applause like it was the end of a song. It was a great experience and this is going to be a big hit and I hope it haunts every one of those piss brained soul less fucks over at miramax who had any part in releasing “The LEgend of Fong Sai Yuk” as “The Legend” a couple weeks ago. This oughta learn em some respect. I hope they have nightmares about every penny that slipped through their fingers because of that “Jet Li Collection” bullshit. “Americans don’t understand elegant period kung fu, so let’s tell ’em it’s another generic cop movie!” Money is all that matters to you bitches so I hope you never see it again. fuck you and fuck your home and your beliefs and your whore mother.
Whoah I believe I let that paragraph get away from me there, sorry folks. Anyway the point is this. Critics right and left are saying, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this is a good one.” I’m gonna have to agree with them. Coulda used more blood but still, I liked all the dancing.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.