It’s common for the cream of H.K. action’s crop to copy each other, but it’s more to do with competition than lack of creativity. Yuen Woo-Ping’s Tiger Cage (1988) had a fight in a gas-fraught room which was rebooted in Corey Yuen Kwai’s The Bodyguard from Beijing (1994) before Ping redid it in Black Mask (1996). Ping used Corey for inspiration during the making of The Tai Chi Master (1993). Ninja in the Dragon’s Den (1982) had a fight involving Conan Lee fighting on stilts. Ping had redone it with more wirework. Corey’s version was better (as is his attempts at making people realize that Hwang Jang-Lee is the world’s best kicker). The irony is that RZA only hired Corey on The Man with the Iron Fists because Ping was unavailable.
The Bruceploitation genre was very influential. The playground fights in The New Game of Death and Fists of Bruce Lee influenced the one in Police Story Part II (1988). The bus scene in Dragon Dies Hard influenced Police Story and In the Line of Duty IV (1989). The opening sequence in Storming Attacks (a.k.a. The Image of Bruce Lee) influenced the one in Crocodile Hunter. Tower of Death had a finale where a moustached man falls into a red pool within a drug factory. This was reworked in Dragons Forever (1988). Then again, Corey Yuen worked on both movies. Finally, Black Spot (1991) inspired Police Story III: Super Cop (1992) in both plot and action. Tower of Death was made at the same time as Jackie Chan’s The Young Master. As such, both movies share the idea of using a piece of clothing like a matador’s cape (otherwise known as a muleta).
Yuen Biao’s bench fight in The Young Master (1980) inspired Phillip Kwok to top it in The Rebel Intruders (a 1980 Shaw Brothers movie which was retitled Killer Army). There’s even a snake-styled fighter (à la Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow) who gets defeated. The bench fights predated Sammo’s bench fight in Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1980). Sammo Hung’s bench fight is better than Jackie’s such duel in The Big Brawl (1980). However, Sammo was more interested in topping Phillip’s work than topping Jackie’s play because Phillip rivalled Sammo’s mastery of the three-sectional-staff in The Victim (1980). That movie must have made fight choreographers jealous, because Tower of Death (1981) also had the main protagonist go from fighting someone with one hand to no hands at all.
Jackie using a fridge door in Rumble in the Bronx (1994) was a tribute to the late Brandon Lee doing it in Rapid Fire (1992) where Lee took some things from Police Story. In Shaw’s Lion Vs. Lion (1981), Tom Chin Yuet-Sang uses a chain whip against an unarmed Johnny Wang. This influenced a similar fight in Ping’s Drunken Tai Chi (1984). In Ping’s fight, Donnie Yen is unarmed against an armed Don Wong. One of the co-choreographers of Lion vs. Lion, Tyrone Hsu, played the king of sticks in Ping’s Drunken Master (1978). In 1984, Tyrone got back at Ping by expertly incorporating breakdancing in a Shaw Brothers comedy titled I Will Finally Knock You Down, Dad! – although the Jing-scripted Treasure Hunters (1981) was said to have been an influence on break dancers.
Drunken Tai Chi hasn’t been the only movie where Ping felt the need to rival someone. The lion dance sequence in Dreadnaught (1981) was an attempt to belittle the similar sequence in The Young Master, a movie which Ping wanted to rival when making The Magnificent Butcher i.e. he found out that there was a scene where Jackie uses a fan to deal with an adversary – much like Ping’s fight scene between Yuen Biao and Lam Ching-Ying. For The Tai Chi Master, Ping wanted to improve upon an old idea that had been used by Yuen Bun in Tsui Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China III – another 1993 Jet Li movie. The idea had Wong Fei-Hung opulently opposing oil-opposed opponents. It came from a 1969 Wong Fei-Hung movie starring Kwan Tak-Hing (The Conqueror of the Sam-Hong Gang).
The link between both movies is The Magnificent Butcher, a dark 1979 dramedy co-starring Kwan, but the idea was retooled in a less peopled manner. Corey reiterated the idea for one of the last fights in The Transporter (2002). For the latter, he adapted the fight involving dock containers from The Blonde Fury (1989). You can find more instances of him copying himself if you watch the final fights in Fist of Fury 1991 and American Shaolin back-to-back. The final fight between Agnes Aurelio and Joyce Godenzi in She Shoots Straight (1990) was the source of inspiration for fights which Corey directed in Cradle 2 the Grave (the female fight of this 2003 movie) and DOA: Dead or Alive (i.e. Tina vs. Zach in this 2006 movie).
Coincidentally, the latter takes moves from Tony Ching Siu-Tung’s work on Naked Weapon (2003). Liu Chia-Liang’s Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986), starring Jet, took the calligraphy fight from The Magnificent Butcher and reinvented it as a sport. However, the brush-themed wrist wrestling from Ping’s movie then became an arm wrestling contest in Drunken Tai Chi. Jing came up with the idea of calligraphy Kung Fu and returned to the idea in The Prodigal Son (1981) hence why he revisited the idea in Money Maker (1991). The Prodigal Son was the most profitable Kung Fu movie screenplay that he worked on, so it’s only natural that a tenth anniversary was in order. Burning Ambition (1989) had the gimmick of two barefooted women fighting adversaries on a floor peppered with broken glass. The concept was rearranged by Lau Kar-Leung for Tiger on the Beat 2 (1990).
In Righting Wrongs (1986), Cynthia Rothrock tries to restrain several attackers at once. This would be remodelled in American Shaolin and The One – the latter was a 2001 star vehicle for Jet. These three movies were choreographed by Corey, whose Fong Sai-Yuk II (1993) had Jet used a woman as a weapon. Corey repeated this in Romeo Must Die – a 2000 Jet Li movie. It would be reused by other choreographers for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012), although Jackie first did it in Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978). As for the cover of this article, Bradley Allan recreated some moves from Drunken Master II (1994) for The World’s End (2013).
Stephen Tung took Ping’s ingenious leather-belt-as-a-nunchaku gag from Fist of Legend (1994) for Hitman (1998), which made it self-referential because of Jet being the star of both movies. Stephen worked on Bulletproof Monk (as did Andy Cheng Kai-Chung), which took the suspended glass fight from Stanley Tong’s China Strike Force (2000). Batman Forever (1996) revived the laundry Kung Fu gag from Dreadnaught. Ang Lee’s 2000 martial arts hit (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) took the crooked female partnership and the nocturnal thievery intervention from The New Legend of Shaolin (1994). The oldest women in both duos are experts at using poison darts. Tellingly, Columbia purchased the rights to the latter before producing the former. Back to Romeo Must Die, the fire hose fight was rejuvenated by Corey for Transporter 2 (2005).
The amalgamation of football and Kung Fu in Romeo Must Die wasn’t just predated by American Shaolin but foreshadowed by Dragon Lord (1982), which Corey had worked on. He knew the idea would work in Romeo Must Die because he was one of the stunt co-ordinators for a movie which combined basketball and fighting in one instance i.e. Eastern Condors (this 1987 movie influenced a 2008 movie titled Kung Fu Dunk). Surprisingly infrequent are the number of examples where a H.K. movie sets out to beat a U.S. martial arts movie. In Timecop (1994), Jean-Claude Van Damme did a stunt that would be inimitable by Jackie or Jet. JCVD did a jump split so as to place his feet on a kitchen top to avoid being eletrocuted via water on the floor. This was topped in Black Mask by having Jet’s stunt double jump up to press his soles against walls on either side of him.