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Before they became big stars ...

Everyone knows about the current movies and the latest hits. But what about the little known gems, the ones that were made when actors were trying their luck? Here I am picking out three noteworthy actors famous for their martial arts prowess and talking a little bit about their past ventures.

1. Jackie Chan

If you have not heard about Mr. Chan, you've probably been living under a rock. With big hits like the Rush Hour movies and the somewhat silly Shanghai Noon, he is a familiar face. So if there was a list of favorite martial artists, he would certainly be top of that list. Other than his recent successes that are roughly based on being the “mysterious man from the other land”, he has done some amazing movies in the past. These were from his young and daring days of trying just about any or every stunt in a movie. This made for fantastic viewing, especially since he loved to add the outtakes at the end of the movie.

So what movies would I list? There is Armor of God with its excellent stunts and funny spoof bits. That hilarious fight scene with four female bodyguards is a great take on the quirky fighting styles of most action movies. That's right, a realistic fight would involve everyone getting in to get a stab at the guy. Obviously one of the other choreographers know about Happy Hour at the local pub. Miracles aka Mister Canton and Lady Rose was another good one. It had a bit of mushy romance but the fight scenes always had style and humor. Furthermore, the setting called for a stylish suit-and-hat gangster feel to it.

Then there were the Lucky Stars series; these were fun comedy-action movies with the weirdest lead characters. Most interesting about this series was the creation of anti-heroes, of sorts, that rise to the occasion and fight in their most haphazard way. Watch out for an intense fight scene between Jackie Chan and a creepy pigtailed minion.

 

2. Jet Li

Jet Li is immensely popular too. He has come a long way from when I first saw him in The Bodyguard from Beijing. It was around this time that a know-it-all in our group boasted that he was a child prodigy. Jet Li, not the friend. This is guaranteed to woo the more impressionable viewing audience and who can blame them? Smooth fighting moves coupled with 'good guy' roles is sure to mark him as a favorite amongst any self-respecting martial arts fan. Which of his earlier movies made the best impressions?

Once upon a time in China has to be top of that list. It was his character, Wong Fei Hong, who sealed the deal for this one. He was the epitome of the wise old man in the mountain, except in a more flexible, less wrinkled brow manner. Plus he was the proverbial 'cool kung-fu' master. This is a theme that runs through another of his famous movies, The Tai-Chi Master. This was a tad weird at times, especially when they talk about the fundamentals of tai chi. Nonetheless, the backdrop is interesting (evil lords and hardcore fighting monks are the style of the day) and the fight scenes make for fun viewing.

 

3.Mark Dacascos

Compared to most other action stars, he has not received as much attention or accolade. Most people probably remember him as Tyre from Stargate Atlantis. Or as Mani from that bizarre movie called Brotherhood of the Wolf. These are not the only movies I would associate with his name though. Take for instance The Crying Freeman. This was one of the best movie adaptations of the manga by the same name. The direction of the movie and the way the plot unfolded had a graphic novel feel to it. And of course the well choreographed action sequences added to its charms.

The next one, Only the Strong, is a cheesy action movie about inspiring young ones. You name it, it's got it – school with low performing kids, violence, gangs. So one military man-teacher comes along to change it all (refer to warning about cheesiness). The highlight of this movie was the catchy music and extremely pleasant Capoeira fight choreography. As far the story went, just as long as no one was fighting in a doorway, Dacascos was a shoe-in to beat down the big boss and his minions. So, which movies are your favorites?