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The Expendables 3: Jet Li’s Top Five Flicks

""No matter how good our kung-fu is, it will never defeat guns.""

In honor of the recent release of Expendables 3, Entertainment Fuse has chosen to profile several of the stars’ storied acting careers.

Jet Li is most well known for his incredibly quick Wushu style kung fu. Quickly ascending the competitive Wushu ladder, Li was able to transform his success in martial arts to success in film. Beginning his film career with Shaolin Temple, Li starred in several Chinese movies before his breakout role in Lethal Weapon 4. Li has since become an international symbol (alongside Jackie Chan) of Chinese martial arts in film. Below I have detailed some of my favorite Jet Li films (in order from 5 to 1), as well as his worst role.

Kiss of the Dragon

5. Kiss of the Dragon (2001)

I know I will get a lot of flack for this pick, but it was the first Jet Li film that I saw, and I still have an affinity for it. Li stars as a Chinese detective, Liu Jian, who is sent to France to bust a drug kingpin. Betrayed by his French counterpart, he is forced to enlist the help of a prostitute to destroy the whole corrupt empire. Complete with Matrix-style villains, and Jian’s penchant for using acupuncture needles (to do some pretty wild stuff), this movie is a Hollywood blockbuster free-for-all.

Hero

4. Hero (2002)

Hero is a beautifully directed Chinese feudal opera starring Li as Nameless, a warrior claiming to have defeated the King of Qin’s most feared enemies. The details of the story are presented as colorful flashbacks, much in the same vein as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, that are magnificent to watch. Full of peaceful harmony as well as some brutal violence, Hero has something to offer any moviegoer.

Unleashed

3. Unleashed (2005)

Absolutely the most badass and violent Li film, Unleashed stars the Wushu master as a slave named Danny who, as a child, was captured by a crime lord. Forced to act as his master’s attack dog, Danny becomes tired of the mindless violence and yearns for a better life. As the slave, Danny wears a collar that “unleashes” an ultra-violent side to the otherwise calm man. In some of the most brutal fight scenes that had ever been in a martial arts film, Jet Li kicks a ton of ass for someone with a child’s mind.

Once ... China

2. Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

Jet Li stars as Wong Fei-Hung in this turn of the century Chinese drama based in reality. Facing up against Western imperialism in China, Fei-Hung must use his martial-arts background to protect his people. Based around the real-life Chinese legend, this film was a run-away hit in China. Spawning five more films, Once Upon a Time in China, proved a solid foundation to Li’s career.

Fist of Legend

1. Fist Of Legend (1994)

Fist of Legend is Jet Li’s take on Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. Li plays Chen Zhen, an engineering student studying abroad in Japan. Returning home to Shanghai, he learns of the Japanese occupation of his home, and the murder of his kung fu master. Determined to avenge his master’s death, Zhen must battle the Japanese authority, and ultimately their undefeated General, Fujita. Fist of Legend is arguably one of Li’s best films, and one of the greatest kung fu stories ever told.

 

Huge Mistake:

Dragon Emperor

It was a tough decision choosing Li’s worst film, but The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) just edged out The One (2001) as his worst role. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor needs no explanation, as it is the third in Brendan Fraser’s Mummy trilogy. Set years after the second film, Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is slow and tired as he battles against Li’s recently resurrected, over-CGI’ed, Dragon Emperor. Full of cheesy effects and dialogue, it is certainly the worst of the trilogy. Thankfully, it is nearly impossible to destroy film career based in action (cough Steven Seagal cough).

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