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The Art of Action: Martial Arts in Motion Picture (2002)

A look at the history of martial arts films from their chinese roots to the present, presented by Samuel L. Jackson.


(as Keith Clarke)



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Credited cast:
Himself - Interviewee
Himself - Interviewee
Herself - Interviewee
Raymond Chow ...
Himself - Interviewee
Latrell Walker in Exit Wounds (archive footage)
Himself - Interviewee
Himself - Narrator
Himself (archive footage)
Himself - Interviewee
Himself - Interviewee (archive footage)
Himself - Interviewee
Himself - Interviewee
Chia-Liang Liu ...
Himself - Interviewee
Hoi Mang ...
Himself - Interviewee


A look at the history of martial arts films from their chinese roots to the present, presented by Samuel L. Jackson.

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Release Date:

June 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Arte Marcial no Cinema  »

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Did You Know?


Bruce Lee: To me - okay? - to me, ultimately martial art means honestly expressing yourself. That is very difficult to do.
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User Reviews

Nice But No Knockout
8 March 2006 | by (Little Rock) – See all my reviews

The Art of Action (2002) is one of the better documentaries on martial arts movies but is certainly not as good as it could be. It features many interesting interviews from legends of the genre including Sammo Hung, John Woo, Lau-kar Lung, David Carradine and even producer Raymond Chow. One of the best aspects of this documentary is that it includes numerous film clips and other rare footage, all nicely remastered and shown in the original widescreen format. Samuel L. Jackson was perhaps not the best choice for narrating the film but does a solid job.

The Art of Action is a nice introduction to the martial arts genre but is vastly incomplete. A nice history of the origins of martial arts film is given, from the Peking Opera influence through the Wong Fei Hung years. The film unbelievably glances over the genre's glory days of the 1970's and 1980's. Rather than exploring many of the legendary and popular films of the kung fu era, the documentary focus on a few (2 maybe) select films and actors. A chapter is given to Bruce Lee which provides some insight into his films and his impact on the genre. In a rare and interesting TV interview, a charismatic Bruce Lee explains his fighting philosophy. A chapter is also dedicated to Jackie Chan which discusses his career from his beginnings in the Peking Opera school to some of his more recent successes in the U.S. Not much time is given to the great Sammo Hung. Jet Li and legendary choreographer Yuen Wo Ping are also briefly mentioned. Some analysis was given to the career of director John Woo but was a little disappointing. They mentioned only in passing his classic Hong Kong bullet ballets and only showed clips from "Face Off" and "Mission Impossible 2." Much of the remainder of the film focused on modern movies, especially "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon." The film dwells on it for over 6 minutes! The documentary wastes a lot of time by mentioning contemporary films influenced by the martial arts genre like "Charlie's Angels," "the Matrix" and even "Shrek". Inexplicably there is no mention of Steven Segal, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris and their real martial arts influenced Hollywood films.

The Art of Action covers a lot of ground in only 90 minutes and does not get to go into much detail. Many classic films and legendary performers are not even mentioned in this documentary. There is no mention of actors like Hwang Jang Lee, Sonny Chiba, Dorian Tan, Alexander Fu Sheng or John Liu. There is also no mention of the independent film companies like Seasonal Films. The film was co-written by Keith Clarke and Christopher Sliney. The writing was not real strong and probably could have been done better by Richard Meyers or Bey Logan.

As a huge fan of the martial arts genre I was a little disappointed in the Art of Action. I felt it was incomplete and deficient in telling the whole story of the martial arts genre. It gives a nice history and background to the genre but does not focus on the all the great films that made it a worldwide phenomena. The Art of Action is a nice introduction to the genre for novice fans but may be disappointing for die hard fans seeking more in-depth analysis.

Film clips/Rare footage: 8/10

Depth/Analysis: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

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