At times, we all get a bit of attention deficit disorder. Like you’re not always up to immerse yourself for an hour in a concept album and prefer to just mix a bunch of rockin’ tunes, sometimes you don’t feel like watching a whole movie, you just wanna get the highlights. You’ll have some friends over, and you’ll want to play D.J., but with movies! I like to do that myself, showing off funny scenes, impressive Steady-Cam shots, cool music cues and, of course, kick ass fights! And now, from the people who brought you the “Boogeymen” collection of horror scenes, comes “Ultimate Fights”, which features just that!
Here’s a DVD which promises “nothing but the good stuff” and delivers. It’s basically a succession of 16 fight sequences, mostly from recent Hong Kong or Hollywood movies, inter-cut with video game-style title cards identifying the opponents. You can enhance that “Street Fighter 2” feel by selecting an alternate “Ultimate Rumble Party Mix” audio track which scores the fights with techno beats and guitar fills, and there’s even an option called “My Top 5” to program your favourite sequence of fights. Mine would run as such:
#5 Wesley Snipes’s samurai duel with Stephen Dorff in “Blade”, if only for how refreshing it is to watch Stephen Norrington’s visually sharp and dynamic but almost old fashioned movie, in contrast to Guillermo Del Toro’s frenetic abortion of a sequel.
#4 Michelle Yeoh chasing a masked Zhang Ziyi in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, even though it’s more acrobatics than a fight. But what graceful acrobatics!
#3 The warehouse gang fight in “Rumble in the Bronx”, one of the greatest Jackie Chan action scenes. Watching him fighting all these guys using everything around him (including refrigerators, TV sets, a shopping cart and skis!) is breath-taking.
#2 A fight from my favorite Jackie Chan movie, “Drunken Master 2”, in which he seems to constantly get hurt real bad, as when he falls into burning coals! Sadly, little actual drunken boxing is featured here, but it’s still
amazing kung fu!
#1 The church shoot-out at the end of John Woo’s “The Killer, with Chow Yun-Fat at his best, slow-motion pigeons and the most graceful ultra-violence you’ll ever see!
I also enjoyed the inclusion of one of the bare knuckle fights in “Snatch”, with a bad-ass looking Brad Pitt and wonderfully stylised visuals; Russell Crowe battling tigers in “Gladiator”; Rambo fighting redneck deputies in “First Blood” (complete with Vietnam flashbacks!); Jet Li doing his thing in “Fist of Legend” and “Black Mask” (both choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, of “The Matrix” fame); and the “Say Hello to my little friend” shoot-out which closes Brian De Palma’s “Scarface”. I’m not a big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan, but his half naked “Time Cop” knife fight is kind of cool, as are the wrestling-flavoured street tussle with Rowdy Roddy Piper from John Carpenters’s “They Live”, Liam Neeson in Fight Club mode in “Crossing the Line” and a short but nasty cat fight from “The Players Club”. As for the “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” scene, it’s pretty good, but why oh why not give us the real Bruce Lee instead? Last but not least, there’s an Easter egg which can be found on the third page of the scene selection menu, which has two oiled, topless ebony Amazons in thongs beating the crap out of a big fella in a scene from “Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheik”!
Overall, this a very entertaining DVD, and it offers plenty of special features, from information about the fighting styles and the performers (notably through optional pop-up on-screen trivia) to theatrical trailers to most of the movies, a ‘Name that Frame’ game, two audio commentaries (by Hong Kong producer/director Tsui Hark and “fight master” James Lew) and an interesting featurette on how to stage your own movie fights, with tips from Lew and Van Damme (who happen to fight each other in the “Time Cop” clip). Of course, everyone will have his little disagreements with the roster. Personally, I’m suspicious of any fight collection which fails to include THE ultimate fight, namely Schwarzenegger’s showdown with Vernon Wells at the end of “Commando”. As for the fights that are included, it’s sometimes frustrating how they cut off before they’re over, but I guess you just have to get yourself the actual movies to get the whole deal. Also, I could have done without the cheesy Limp Bizkit intro, complete with the ever-obnoxious “Let’s get ready to ruuuuumbbbleeeeeeeeee!” kick-off. Still, “Ultimate Fights” remains a satisfying one-stop supply of macho thrills that action fans will watch over and over.