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It's official: Jay Chou is the next Kato. What does this mean for Jay and Green Hornet fans alike? APA runs down Jay Chou's top 10 martial arts moments to see why we should be both excited and a little worried.
The announcement that Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou will be Kato in Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry's Green Hornet big-screen adaptation has both fans and non-fans alike a little confused. Physically, stylistically, culturally, and philosophically, Chou is not exactly who you'd think of to fill in the role that made Bruce Lee an American icon, upstaging co-star Van Williams and making the Green Hornet Show the Kato Show. Can Chou act for Hollywood? Can he speak in English?
Most of all -- can he fight? We all know he wants to. Throughout his career -- in music videos, commercials, and films -- Chou has quite willingly fashioned himself a fighter of sorts. His second album, Fantasy, included two tracks, Ninja and Nunchuks, which explicitly revealed a fascination with Asian martial arts, and the respective music videos visually realized that fantasy for Jay. And most recently, Chou was the star of Kung Fu Dunk, a big-budget Shaolin Soccer knock-off that combines... well you can figure it out.
Perfecting Kato means more than having an ability to fight. Firstly, not any kind of fighting will do; spear and swordplay skills may not come in very handy on the streets of America. Can Chou brawl? Can he be a trickster? Secondly, Kato and the Green Hornet are a crime-fighting duo, which combines all kinds of action genres -- cop films, spy films, buddy films, superhero movies -- none of which we've seen Chou in yet.
However, perhaps it doesn't matter if Jay Chou can fight. Maybe all he needs is to be able to fight better than Seth Rogen, who plays the Green Hornet. Or perhaps it's a moot point because this is Hollywood, where anyone can be a hero. So perhaps what we need from Jay is a certain kind of swagger. The press coverage of the casting announcement often includes this quote from Chou: "I won't try to be Bruce Lee's Kato -- I will try to bring my own interpretation to the part." Sure that's a generic statement, and to some extent a useless one because Green Hornet fans will be, for better or worse, looking for Bruce Lee's Kato.
But the statement is important because it points us away from the question "can Jay fight?" and toward the more appropriate one: "what is Jay's martial arts personality?" For years, Chinese audiences have interpreted (and sometimes dismissed) Jay's forays into martial arts as simply examples of his "sua ku" ("acting cool") tendencies. Is this what Gondry and Rogen were attracted to? (Aside from, of course, the huge financial rewards that will come from casting the biggest male star in East Asia in his Hollywood debut. Rogen better hire a Chinese agent -- and bodyguard.) Will Jay's sua ku fly in America? Or does cinema wizard Michel Gondry have something else up his sleeves?
We've collected here ten examples of how Jay has "interpreted" martial arts in the context of his music and his own persona.
Pursued by ninjas, Jay proves as capable of swashbuckling his way back, as he is in rapping about the way of the warrior. Slow motion and rapid editing help too.
Our first introduction to Jay as a kung fu hero is appropriately over-the-top, with Jay sending shockwaves through walls and villains. Mastery of Bruce Lee's singature weapon is a plus; the "huh huh ha hee" chorus a nice tribute to kung fu grunts of the past.
"Dragon Fist" (2002)
Jay fights a green screen, and "Pow!"s his way to victory (in a nice nod to superhero comics). But Jay as manga hero is less than impressive, mostly because it becomes quickly apparent that the video is little more than a Pepsi commercial (see below).
"The Last Battle" (2002)
Straying from martial arts, Jay seeks his Saving Private Ryan moment, which unfortunately isn't that impressive as a war epic -- nor as a song or an acting performance for that matter. But once again, Jay gets points for it is because, as any aspiring actor should, he's willing to take on any role: amateur boxer, wounded soldier, distressed killer.
Double Blade (2003)
In his first American "film," Jay saves his little brother from neighborhood thugs. Jay takes on a smattering of English, and in classic Chinese kung fu manner, takes on foreigners much bigger than he is. In "Double Blade," Jay doesn't fight so much as pose in succession, but somebody must have been impressed by this ghetto fantasy: director Alexi Tan was given a chance to direct the big budget Blood Brothers as a result of this 14-minute short.
"Chaotic Dance Spring Autumn" (2004)
Jay doesn't fight here, but does show off some increasingly convincing staff skills. Others fight, but Jay clearly thinks he's too cool for that. Proof: see him two-step in warrior garb, and answer his cell phone is a sweet little postmodern moment. Not surprisingly, this is a commercial for a video game. I think.
Pepsi commercial (circa 2005)
Some of the biggest names in Chinese pop star as the nine blue warriors in this series of Pepsi commercials, a cross between Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, and Dragon Ball Z. Among them is Jay Chou, who steals the show, before having his soda stolen from him by a little boy. A chase ensues and Jay and comrades fight a giant sand monster.
scene from Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
The star of this bloody scene from Curse of the Golden Flower is not Jay Chou, but director Zhang Yimou, whose mastery of rhythm, movement, shape, color, and light are on full display. But Jay is worthy collaborator, holding his own as the warrior who cannot fall. In terms of martial arts, this is Jay Chou's highest moment to date.
"Huo Yuanjia" (2006)
The video for Jay's musical tribute to Fearless subject Huo Yuanjia (incidentally, Bruce Lee's master) has Jay Chou dance-fighting cross-cut with Jet Li rocking some major mayhem. It's clear who is the superior fighter here, but what's surprising is that Jay is equally compelling as a cinematic force -- though that may simply be because Jay, never shying from the spotlight, is the video's director.
scene from Kung Fu Dunk (2008)
Guess who's been practicing? Jay Chou is a full-on martial arts star in the action-comedy Kung Fu Dunk, and his style meshes nicely with Ching Siu-tung's choreography. His comedic moments don't always work though, as Jay relies too much on fans' love for the Jay Chou sua-ku persona than on, say, timing or acting.
list compiled by Brian Hu and Winghei Kwok
Date Posted: 8/14/2009