On the occasion of JeeJa Yanin's explosive performance in Chocolate, APA recounts our top ten ass-kicking heroines in Asian martial arts films over the years.
Yoko Ogawa's latest novel to be translated into English is The Housekeeper and the Professor, a story about a curious friendship that is illuminated through the complexity of numbers.
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On the occasion of Jeeja Yanin's explosive performance in Chocolate, APA recounts our top ten ass-kicking heroines in Asian martial arts films.
Compared with Hollywood, Asian cinema has seen far more bona-fide female action stars that can inspire empowerment as much as awe. And though Prachya Pinkaew's recent film Chocolate is only young star Jeeja Yanin's first big-screen role, we're ready to enshrine her in that legacy. There's no better validation for her performance in Chocolate than to say that she's worthy of comparison to some of Asian cinema's finest. Here's APA's list of the top 10 female martial artists in Asian cinema history, in rough chronological order:
Polly Shang Kwan
Cheng Pei-pei gets all the credit for being the woman warrior of King Hu's early epics, but in terms of sheer martial skill, peppy Polly Shang Kwan is the more memorable. Notable films: Dragon Inn (1966), The 18 Bronzemen (1976)
No-nonsense Angela Mao is hands-down the queen of 1970s kung fu. Mao's fiery jump kicks struck fear in villains and viewers alike. Notable films: Hapkido (1972), Enter the Dragon (1973), Broken Oath (1977)
Judy Lee Chia-ling's athleticism was alternately playful, elegant, and deadly. If she were in more masterpieces, she'd be better known today. Notable films: The Avenger (1972), The Blazing Temple (1976)
One of the few martial artists who knew that cinematic fighting is also a kind of acting, Kara Hui could make a kick a cry, and a punch a punchline. Notable films: My Young Auntie (1981), Lady is the Boss (1983)
Hong Kong cinema's all-purpose white girl, Cynthia Rothrock (and her dazzling do's) found her way into a good number of films in the late 1980s, most of them sub-par. But when she battled villains (and heroes) of all ethnicities and genders, Rothrock made her presence felt and remains one of Hong Kong cinema's most memorable figures. Notable films: Yes, Madam (1985), Righting Wrongs (1986)
Eurasian Miss Hong Kong winner Joyce Godenzi had no martial arts training before making a handful of films in the late 80s. But working with the top choreographers, editors, and directors (being married to Sammo Hung didn't hurt), Godenzi soon rose to prominence as one of the toughest fighters in Hong Kong. Notable films: Eastern Condors (1987), She Shoots Straight (1990)
First a ballet prodigy, then a beauty queen, Michelle Yeoh splashed onto world cinema as one of the most spectacular kung fu stars ever captured on film. Choreographers loved her versatility, fans loved her physical artistry. Notable films: Police Story III: Supercop (1992), The Heroic Trio (1993), Wing Chun (1994), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
Japanese-born martial artist Yukari Oshima made a name in Hong Kong and Filipino cinema, though never became a household one as Yeoh and Rothrock did. But as a pure fighter, Oshima could be the best. Notable films: Brave Young Girls (1990), Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)
Thanh Van Ngo
Newcomer Thanh Van Ngo was one of the biggest surprises of Charlie Nguyen's The Rebel, holding her own against Hollywood stuntman Johnny Nguyen. Notable film: The Rebel (2006)
The label "female Tony Jaa" just doesn't get to the heart of what makes Jeeja Yanin so charismatic onscreen. She's a sharp fighter for sure, but she has a child-like fascination that gives her rare personality in a genre that's frequently emotion-less. Notable film: Chocolate (2008)
Compiled by Oliver Chien and Brian Hu
Date Posted: 2/20/2009