Just a quick Google search online about actress Michelle Yeoh’s new movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and you needn’t wait too long before stumbling upon the names of Andy Le, Brian Le and Daniel Mah, the pointmen of stunt, film and fight choreography troupe, Martial Club.
I have yet to see the film as I prefer at this stage to catch it on Blu-Ray or via Digital or streaming when I have the time, and so I yet can’t speak for the Daniels’ latest effort, save for the bursts of online praise the film has received for its execution, SFX ingenuity and quality, and overall delivery from Yeoh and the cast, and the action design by the aforementioned team.
Their success comes nearly a year since the long-awaited release of filmmaker Bao Tran’s hit martial arts comedy, The Paper Tigers, from Well Go USA last year, following and proceeding a rousing reception in the festival circuit. To date, they remain a point of buzzworthy film coverage to this day, including recent articles at The Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly, with heavy citation to their old school kung fu influences, and the desire to keep classic martial arts action alive as they’ve done in many of their own shortfilms.
They have also been a mainstay here at our humble platform where they first landed on our radar, in part via Micah Brock’s own indie martial arts webseries, Slug Street Scrappers, and it’s been an amazing view seeing these guys flourish into the talents they’ve become, along with aspirations of making their own movie someday. And I am here for it.
The Daniels reportedly found Martial Club online via YouTube, so I feel it would be mistaken for any filmmaker or producer to drop the ball on the numerous talents available through simple discovery online. I did it for close to five years every week with seasonal breaks in between for The Hit List, so there’s literally no excuse.
As such, with Martial Club essentially breaking barriers for themselves this season, it’s worth pointing out some more noteworthy names in the stunt and fight choreography arena who’ve been cutting their teeth ever since Kick-Ass had a MySpace page. If you’re a director working in Hollywood with a penchant for kung fu and in need of some noteworthy purveyors of the old school, here I am to drop ten for you below.
Ken Quitugua helped serve up the action on The Paper Tigers as well, and even landed some deadly blows on screen as the film’s key antagonist. His performance here follows previous work he did on Tran’s award-winning shortfilm, Bookie, and a starring role in Dennis Ruel’s 2015 directorial debut, Unlucky Stars. Quitugua has been a staple in the indie community long since his heyday with Infinite Quest and Zero Gravity, and he’s especially someone I continue to cheer on for future lead roles if he’s pursuant of it.
I could go on for days and weeks about Yes, Auntie! director Joey Min. He hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet, while he does acknowledge himself as a filmmaker simply catering to fans who just love fun stuff to watch online, including some great martial arts gems. While not all of his content delves into the fight stuff, it most certainly culminates his work of the last twenty years or so as he’s continued to build his platform to what many of us now know as Art School Dropouts, and he’s hit a few milestones ever since. Some of his on-hand talents include filmmaking partner Stephanie Pham, and a range of collaborators including/not limited to Angela Jordan, Kage Yami, Gee Javier, Jon Truei, Team OneTake’s Hector Soria, and Hong Kong stunt veteran, R4 Films LLC’s Robert Samuels.
Can Aydin is just one name that fell into my lap over the years out of many long after Mathis Landwehr came onto my radar with Johannes Jaeger’s Kampfansage: Der Letzte Schuler. German Kung Fu was here to stay, and with it, a generation of talented aspiring stunt fighters all equally passionate to work, albeit stuck in a region where studio-level martial arts action is about as in-demand as fried BBQ chicken wings at a vegan potluck.
Much like many of his peers, it took a lot of work to get to where he is today with Reel Deal Action, working on films like The Berlin File, Big Game, Birds Of Prey and John Wick Chapter 3, and Amazon’s Without Remorse. His white whale at the time, of course, was 2017’s Plan B, a delightful martial arts comedy directed by Ufuk Genc and Michael Popescu, and with all the hope in the world for a sequel that could surpass the original.
Just a few feet away from Aydin above, we can also take a liking to Andy Long Nguyen who remains one of the most in-demand action directors and choreographers in his field for projects in Europe and Southeast Asia. From his humble beginnings with the MagFighters in Pforzheim, Germany to working his way up to become a member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and ultimately laying the groundwork for his own self-titled stunt unit, Nguyen also has one feature lead role in the books with 2017’s Luc Van Tien, which also employed Andy and Brian Le of Martial Club, much to our delight.
One of my earlier points of coverage near the start of this platform was a film called Battle B-Boy, which also featured actress PeiPei Alena Yuan, who is more than fifteen years in the field. She’s worked with a LOT of people and has a great footing in many areas of creativity as a model, dancer, and most prolifically, a stunt professional in various facets, collaborating with some of our own favorites like John Kreng, Brendon Huor, Shaun Charney, and Vlad Rimburg. She’ll next be seen in the fourth season of Stranger Things, Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, and David Leitch’s Sony Pictures release, Bullet Train, and I think she’d make a great fit as fight coordinator on a feature kung fu vehicle someday.
I haven’t had the chance to engage with Adrian Castro, though not for lack of trying. Regardless, his projects with actress and filmmaker Maria Tran have certainly helped put him on the spotlight over the years with the Tiger Cop shorts and the award-winning short, Hit Girls with Tran and actress JuJu Chan. There was even some fan chatter among stunties who admired Andy Long’s Yellow Zone shortfilm so much that one day he, Tran and Castro might put their resources together to possibly recreate an 80s Hong Kong-style martial arts actioner. The creative elements are there. The assets and potential art most certainly there and undoubtedly, the people are here, and I would especially love to see Castro a part of something like that.
One of the biggest surprises for me in the last decade was the work of Chris Cowan, whose collaborative projects under the banners of Thousand Pounds Action Company and Epic Rival thereafter, have helped ascend him into one of the most outstanding action filmmakers of today. Much of his work can still be seen online elevating talents like Amy Johnston, Aaron Toney, Brendon Huor and Alvin Hsing to name a few, in addition to the big screen with credits like both Rogue One and Solo Star Wars spin-offs, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, Wonder Woman, Kingsman, The King’s Man and Shang-Chi among others, all conclusively proving his keen comprehension of fight choreography and stunts. If he hasn’t yet been attached to direct a studio feature yet, then I can only hope it’s just a matter of time.
You might certainly count on Cowan to share some insight on working with Joseph Le, who landed on our radar years ago with Turtle Wave and his current independent film banner, Team Red Pro. He’s an immaculate performer with an eye for kung fu choreography, and to date, he’s the first and only filmmaker that I know of, to present a conceptual short that blends kung fu action with Pokémon with impressive results.
Between that and collaborating with Martial Club and Rising Tiger Films, say what you will about his methods, but it’s got him working on mainline features now with elite Jackie Chan stunt veteran Andy Cheng on projects like Shang-Chi, and the upcoming 2023 Saint Seiya film debuting actor Mackenyu Arata for his first movie role outside of Japan.
Apart from his time with the EMC Monkeys, Malay Kim has an exceptional growing list of screen credits in stunts and fight choreography, having worked on Marvel’s second season of Iron Fist under Clayton Barber and showrunner Raven Metzner, as well as Jesse Johnson’s The Mercenary, Miguel Angel Ferrer’s Female Fight Squad, Marvel’s Shang-Chi as stunt performer, and even Telugu boxing thriller, Ghani. He also worked on a miniseries called Breakarate which I haven’t seen yet, but looks more than awesome enough to warrant more website coverage other than this platform. And if you’re not convinced yet, I’m almost certain his reel above will.
It’s hard at this stage to understate the immense work that’s been done over the years with Godefroy Ryckewaert at the helm. He’s one of the best cinematographers I’ve seen apply himself, but one important aspect that can’t be overlooked is his ability to convey characterization and depth in many of his own projects. He certainly has a knack for comedy as well as drama, coupled with stylish action for indie projects like Shadow Of 13 with Daren Nop, and Les aventures de Tranh & Nowak with Geneviève Doang and Quentin D’Hainaut. To date, his credits also include Jean-Paul Ly starrer, Jailbreak, and serving the action units for Netflix’s The Witcher and The Witcher: Blood Origin.
…So like I said, this is only ten, and you can imagine how many more even you can discover. The Daniels did it, so the only question left is… who are YOUR ten? @ us on Twitter and let us know!
Lead pic credit: A24