Alright folks, this is it! I finally got to finish this year’s list and there’s a lot to get to so let’s not waste any time.
To see numbers 25 through 10 again, check out Part 1 and Part 2.
The Badasses of 2010, Part III
9. Park Do-won, played by Woo-sung Jung – The Good, The Bad, The Weird
“Even if a man has no country, he’s still got to have money.”
Much like Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Park Do-won’s status as “The Good” in Kim Ji-woon’s Spaghetti Western homage The Good, The Bad, The Weird is really a relative term. Much like the rest of the film’s menagerie of dastardly characters, Do-won is a mercenary for hire, and he’s not opposed to cutting you down if you’re unlucky enough to be in his way. When it comes down to it, what really sets him apart from every other killing machine in the film is just sheer confidence. Where it seems like every other person in the movie has some weird personality trait or complex, Do-won is cool as a cucumber no matter what the situation. He doesn’t need to talk big, outsmart you or shoot you in the back to defeat you; he simply uses sheer willpower and lightning quick speed.
In the film’s showcase action sequence, a raucous chase through the Mongolian desert, a troop of Japanese soldiers finds out just how much Park Do-won is able to live up to his reputation. Armed only with a Winchester rifle, Do-won rides through the troops and decimates their numbers, the soldiers’ rifles and machine guns powerless to stop him. If that weren’t enough, the gunslinger turns back around and rides back through, obliterating the men lucky enough to survive his initial volley. In one of the best action sequences of 2010, Woo-sung Jung ‘s Park Do-won rides through, obliterates all in his path and ends up stealing nearly the entire movie.
8. B.A. Baracus, played by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – The A-Team
“You pancaked my van! I’m gonna kill you, fool!”
I have to say upfront that when a movie based on The A-Team was first announced I was pretty skeptical that anyone could fill the shoes of Mr. T when it came to playing B.A. Baracus. Rumors of rappers such as Ice Cube or Common taking on the role always felt wrong to me, as neither possessed the sort of showmanship/badass quality the role required. Enter former UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson and all of my worries suddenly disappeared.
As the UFC’s most larger than life fighter, Rampage brings to B.A. the sort of legit asskicker quality that you couldn’t get from an ordinary actor, and with Jackson actually doing a decent job with his acting what you end up with is a perfect homage/new take on this ‘80s icon. I love that Rampage is particularly funny in the movie, but its moments like him body-slamming a man to death that show you why they cast Jackson in the role in the first place. B.A. has to be both funny and terrifying, and with Rampage Jackson that’s exactly what you get.
7. Roy Miller, played by Tom Cruise – Knight and Day
“Nobody follow us or I kill myself and then her.”
Is there really an actor that works harder to entertain us than Tom Cruise? Not even taking into account his impeccable comic timing and good work as a romantic lead, Cruise once again proves he’s got the goods as an action hero, whether it’s mopping the floor with a plane full of secret agents, riding a motorcycle through a raging stampede or shooting it out on a Boston expressway. Cruise’s Roy Miller is a charming, smiling, joking one-stop shop for fun, over the top violence. The actor’s star may have diminished in the last few years, but he’s still fighting hard for every dollar he earns and Roy Miller is just another example of him going above and beyond to entertain you while we smokes a few bad guys onscreen.
6. Evelyn Salt, played by Angelina Jolie – Salt
“I am not a g**damned Russian spy.”
Let’s face it, while Angelina Jolie might be better at opening an action movie than any actress in the world, I can’t say that she’s particularly consistent. While I do love Wanted and I think Mr. and Mrs. Smith is watchable, for every one of those movies there’s a Tomb Raider-quality flick around the corner. That’s why I initially resisted seeing Salt, which just looked to me like a Bourne-style thriller without Matt Damon starring in it. Now in the end, that’s sort of what Salt ends up being, it doesn’t mean that the film isn’t entertaining or that Angelina Jolie isn’t engaging and vicious in the lead.
Originally, of course, Tom Cruise was scheduled to play this role but then dropped out to star in Knight and Day, with the film then being rewritten to accommodate Jolie, who brings a ton of intensity to the work while slaughtering scores of rogue agents. Whether doing super-kicks off a wall, double-fisting pistols or feeding Russians grenades for lunch, Salt surprises you with just how “out for blood” she gets on her quest for vengeance. While Salt the movie shocks you with just how engrossing it ends up being, Salt the character is working overtime to enthrall you with a pretty nonstop array of creative violence.
5. Yuda, played by Iko Uwais – Merantau
“I promise to do my best.”
Merantau may just be the best martial arts film that no one has really seen. Indonesia’s answer to Ong Bak has a stronger devotion to story than its predecessor and in the middle of it is Iko Uwais as Yuda, a young man on a personal journey to discover who he really is. After wandering into the city, Yuda discovers how harsh life can be on the streets. By chance, he stands up for a girl who is being beaten in an alleyway and ends up embroiled in a war with thugs and human traffickers. The ensuing fight scenes are amazing to watch, and Uwais will hopefully do for the martial art of Silat what Tony Jaa was able to do for Muay Thai. His fists and feet of fury show real grace as he beats the crap out of scumbags and gangsters, and the movie builds to a wild crescendo in a shipyard with dozens of women’s live at stake. While Uwais shows some decent skill acting-wise, it’s his acrobatic ability and stunning speed that make him unforgettable and unbelievable to watch.
4. Uri Boyka, played by Scott Adkins – Undisputed III: Redemption
“That makes me angry.”
Martial arts fans should take note: If you’re looking for the next big screen fighting star to root for, I’d vote for Scott Adkins. The guy simply has the goods when it comes to skill and physique. Looking like he’s been carved out of granite, the man dishes out punishment like it’s nobody’s business, and when his flips and kicks get going it looks like he’s able to actually defy the laws of gravity. As Boyka, from the Undisputed series, Adkins is particularly awesome. He’s a Russian prisoner who simply wants to be the best fighter in the world. In Part II he was a noble villain matched up against Michael Jai White. In Part III he’s the closest thing this movie has to a hero, as he takes part in a fight tournament with the winner gaining his freedom and the losers getting a bullet to the head. Breaking rocks to get into shape, Boyka takes his aggression out on his opponents, busting heads and breaking legs to get his shot at liberation.
Undisputed III is a great example of the amazing work being done right now with DTV action movies and Adkins is pretty much the poster boy for the awesome action stars ready for their big break. If you’re tired of the same old, overly edited messes that pass for action films these days, then by all mean give movies like this one a shot. Just be ready for Scott Adkins and characters like Boyka to blow your mind.
3. Royce, played by Adrien Brody – Predators
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.”
As I’ve written before, if you defeat a Predator in hand to hand combat you’re a shoe-in for this list. With that said, if you happen to beat a Predator to death in the process then you’ve probably got a good shot at making the top five. Adrien Brody completely shattered my expectations for just how convincing he could be as an action star, as he wouldn’t have been my first choice when picking the spiritual successor to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch from the original Predator. After what looks like a ton of time spent in the gym and perfecting his own version of the Batman voice, Brody’s Royce leads his ragtag group of mercenaries against our favorite intergalactic hunters with some legit swagger.
Royce blasts away with his automatic shotgun, shouts out orders, and systematically devises a plan to fight back against his captors until the movie comes down to a one on one showdown between he and the big ugly alien. Using his wits and some sort of jawbone, we end up getting an awesome showdown with a ton of blood spilled, both red and green. Oscar winner or no, let’s get this guy fighting some more Predators on the double.
2. Lee Christmas, played by Jason Statham – The Expendables
“Next time… I’ll deflate all your balls.”
Perhaps one of the toughest parts of putting this list together was deciding which member of The Expendables was going to make this list. Sure, Randy Couture’s Toll Road seems unstoppable in hand to hand combat and Terry Crews’ Hale Caesar brought the thunder with his AA-12 auto shotgun, but when came down to picking the best of the best, Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas seemed like the all-around biggest badass on the team. No matter what’s in his hand, if he’s got a weapon at all, this man is as deadly as they come.
First off, he’s amazing with a blade, ending the lives of many a scumbag with various throwing knives to the throat, chest, head, or wherever else it could possibly hurt. In fact, it’s arguable that he’s better with a knife than anyone else on the team is with a gun, like James Coburn’s character from The Magnificent Seven, only that character wasn’t also an artist with a machine gun and didn’t do kung fu. No matter who he’s fighting and how he’s fighting them, Christmas seems completely unstoppable. I also like that he stands up for his lady (Charisma Carpenter), and he doesn’t mind beating the crap out of a guy who likes to hit women and all of his friends to boot. It just adds a touch of class to the character.
Statham is exactly the type of action star that I love. He seems completely committed to action cinema, and while he does appear in his share of stinkers, you know time in and time out that he’s giving 100%. Even if we only get a movie like The Expendables once out of every five movies he’s in, it seems like we get close to five or six Jason Statham movies a year, so I’d gladly wade through the crap to get to awesome performances like this one. The man is simply as good and consistent an action star as we’ve got right now, and if he keeps going down this road, he deserves the mantle that it looks like Sylvester Stallone wants to give to him.
1. Chen Zhen, played by Donnie Yen – Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
“China will never bow down to anyone!”
When it came down to picking a #1 for this list, I really didn’t have to deliberate on the subject for very long. When choosing the biggest badass in cinemas last year, I wanted to pick the total package; someone that appeared to be completely invincible whether he had a weapon in his hand or not, and if he needed to he could outsmart his opponent before beating the crap out of him. If this person faced an entire army or just one amazing opponent, you knew that deep down there was no way he was going to lose. That’s the type of person you want at #1 and that’s who you get with Donnie Yen’s Chen Zhen.
As I’ve talked about a few times before, there’s just something really special about seeing Donnie Yen get to play the character of Chen Zhen. The character was created by Bruce Lee in the film Fist of Fury as a fictional student who gets revenge for the real life assassination of Kung fu master Huo Yuanjia (played by Jet Li in the movie Fearless). If you’ve never seen it, Fist of Fury (AKA: The Chinese Connection) is widely considered Bruce’s best performance and shows him at his absolute peak as both a star and a martial artist.
The same can be said of Jet Li’s turn at playing Chen Zhen in the 1994 remake Fist of Legend which is on my shortlist as perhaps the best pure martial arts movie of all time, with Li’s Zhen standing as his best performance and maybe my favorite kung fu movie performance of all time. The movie may still have the best screen fights I’ve ever seen, with Li and fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping at the top of their game. The fights are so good that Woo-Ping would catch the attention of Hollywood, and would go on to choreograph the fights in The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Kill Bill.
Donnie Yen actually played the role in a TV miniseries based on Fist of Fury in the ‘90s but this sequel is the first time he’s actually played him on the big-screen, and I feel like this time out actually cements a sort of torch passing for the star. Playing Chen Zhen is a mantle held only by the biggest martial arts star in the world, and finally that mantle belongs to Donnie Yen. No one in kung fu cinema is doing better work, and Legend of the Fist is just another example of his incredible dominance over the genre at the moment
With Donnie Yen playing him, Chen Zhen just oozes badassery in every scene. We start with Chen Zhen as a soldier fighting against the Germans in World War I, in an incredible sequence where the character decides he’s had enough of guns and starts wiping out an entire unit of armed soldiers. With only a bayonet in hand, Chen Zhen obliterates the Germans; dodging bullets and flying through the air with double-kneed fury. The action then moves back to Shanghai where our hero becomes a freedom fighter and vigilante against the Japanese army, taking them out in a Kato costume at night like Batman cleaning up Gotham City. Then finally, he stands alone against a whole school of karate masters, dressed in white Bruce Lee garb that looks amazing drenched blood. All in all, the man is the epitome of a complete warrior, outsmarting his opponents if necessary by using a double persona, but completely unstoppable once he decides just to use brute force. It’s tough to say whether this is Donnie Yen’s best performance, but I have no doubt it’s one that I’ll consider a milestone from now on.
Ok, so that’s it for this year’s list. Hope you guys had fun and I’ll see you guys again really soon.
Tags: Adrien Brody, angelina jolie, Donnie Yen, Iko Uwais, Jason Statham, Knight And Day, Predator, Predators, R0bTrain's BADASS Cinema, R0BTRAIN’s Bad Ass Cinema, Salt, Scott Adkins, The Expendables, The Good The Bad The Weird, Tom Cruise, Undisputed III