Donnie Yen opens up about Raging Fire, action movies, and John Wick 4

You started off by mentioning the final fight scene, and I love the choreography of that final fight. And I don’t want to go into it too much because our readers may not have seen the movie, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that an action movie ends with a final fight. And the actual scene was very UFC, very mixed martial arts. In fact, it felt a bit like professional wrestling at times because of the power struggle changes and the way you were fighting against each other…

Well, that’s the trick. For a very long time the way we do action movies with martial arts, or any kind of combat action movies, a lot of them, they were created, choreographed – later it was photographed by a lot of specialists, maybe, but it’s been made, edited, the way they’ve placed the camera, by mostly non-martial artists, until now, because that’s how the system works. A martial arts choreographer or a combat choreographer, not only in Western Hollywood but in any culture, is considered a technician, is considered a choreographer, like the choreographer of a group. We never gave them all the assets to visualize the way they see how it goes.

Hong Kong, very late since the days of Bruce Lee and later that all changed, we revolutionized the way we film action. In fact, we allow the fight choreographer to turn and edit. And of course, it all depends on who has the most influence in the market, so in the ’70s to’ 80s and ’90s, until today most of the movies that make money are movies of action makers action. So the action directors, our older generation, had a lot of power, a lot of voice. When the action director arrives on a set, he takes over. He begins to film the plans of establishment and to assemble all the parts. This is why for decades, Hong Kong films were above everyone else, as they actually captured the essence of fight choreography.

And when you see it the longest in American movies, people still complain about it today: “Why is it so hectic? Why is it, why is it?” Because I guess probably, maybe some decent or even brilliant choreography has fallen into the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to turn it. And he said, “Oh, let me try it here. Let me try it here. And they start shooting several cameras, several shots, and then those shots were delivered to the editing room. And the editor says, “Oh, let me figure this out,” and starts slicing it up. So at the end of the day you see this hectic thing. But of course, right now the progress has changed so much. For example, the film I’m working on with Chad, he understands, he comes from that culture. He was a stuntman, he worked with the Chinese, a lot of those Chinese action filmmakers. And he’s a good martial artist himself, he’s been a well-trained martial artist for a very long time. He understands, oh, what was missing in those American action movies when it comes to fighting is that you don’t shoot it right, you don’t edit it right.

So anyway, back to what I was telling you, maybe 20 years ago I realized how Hong Kong was doing action movies, yes they were very advanced but they got to a point where they didn’t break through, when modern martial arts returned, but before the UFC. It was kickboxing, it was shoot boxing, it was Muay Thai, and they weren’t making up for it. Maybe I was very lucky, I spent many years traveling. I lived in the United States for a long time, then I traveled and I was always a huge fan of martial arts, and I was always curious as a kid. So I had the privilege of learning so many styles of martial arts, and figured out, oh, well, how do you bring up Hong Kong movies? When it got to the heyday, even though they were leading the world standards for action movies. But the mix of the whole industry, I want to be the pinnacle of my industry.

So I was bringing different styles, one of the styles was many years ago when the UFC came up, UFC One, I was always a fan, I would say, oh, what the hell is that? is ? It’s BJJ, it’s jiu-jitsu, that’s all, never seen before. I said, how can I bring this to Hong Kong movies? So many years ago I started with “SPL”, “Kill Zone” and “Flash Point”. It was the first temptation, my experience and the temptation of “Kill Zone”, test on UFC. Then “Flash Point”, I was learning in parallel, there was a jiu-jitsu guy, who understood the techniques, with my experience on how to shoot it in a very Hong Kong style. Where I said, oh, let me try to break this down, how to pull it. And until today, a lot of action filmmakers, including Hollywood, look at some of my previous films like “Kill Zone” and “Flash Point” as a shot. It’s like, oh, he knows how to film combat, modern combat, jujitsu, kickboxing.

So basically “Raging Fire” is an elevation of what I wanted to do with this kind of modern movie. If we’re making modern movies today, modern action movies like a cop, or a fight, or contemporary, any kind of contemporary setting that’s going on today, that has to be what’s going on today. Everything has to relate, anyone can relate to that. And certainly, all this mixed martial art, MMA, is a common culture, we cannot do without it. If I want to be a cop, I can’t fight like this, I can’t fight like this. People laugh at me. You have to bring the real things into the world of what we do. So yeah, the final fight is what I did. I did it, choreographed it and got my actor to train, and I just combine the techniques that I know from film and my martial arts knowledge.

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Johnnie Hill

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