I grew up watching martial arts movies. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack to the uninitiated), James Ryan, Lo Lieh, et al, ad infinitum. There was a certain angst in my pre-teen life that created a void, bullying primarily, that was filled by these classic "revenge scenario" movies.
As time went on, and I grew older, the athletic nature of the movies is still amazing, as even most of the older ones hold up, especially those with Lee and Jackie Chan. Modern day bad-asses Tony jaa, and the "free runners" of movies like "District B13" have me shaking my head in disbelief. Having spent 2 years in the toe-breaking and knee twisting regimens of tae-kwon-do, I respect their accomplishments all the more.
But these movies, ones of my childhood, like "Fists of Fury", "Good Guys Wear Black", "Kill or Be Killed", and even the more modern and slick flicks like the ones of the current Chan regime, or Jaa out of Thailand, seem to lack a cerebral element.
I found it.
Now, a lot of martial arts enthusiasts may think of this movie as "slow" or even boring, but a movie buff with a respect for martial arts films, as I consider myself, will truly find it revelatory. The acting is way above the bar. Especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor whose face will be familiar to many, carries this movie despite a strong supporting cast.
He plays a prideful, and truly restrained martial artist who understands the art for what it is. An art, not a goddamn sport. So, in that respect, it is a mild slap in the face to the trendy UFC and MMA comps that dominate the current scene in televised one on one sport. But I digress.
This is about the movie. And a great one it is. Ejiofor's character is a heartbreak and a thrill to watch as the people and circumstances that become a whirlwind around him force him to make a decision that he has to hope is the right one. It becomes one that tests his character's motto, and may be an answer to all of life's swooping nets.
Mike doesn't teach people to "fight", he teaches them to prevail. To preserve the peace.
There's always an escape.