Melted pot

The title refers to the fact that the melting pot has been run to the ground in terms of the homogenization of Hong Kong cinema for Western audiences. As many fans will attest, there have been a surprising number of American movies (and a few TV serials) which have been influenced by H.K. cinema. It’s not just a case of taking combat-oriented ideas, although John Woo’s ideas have been reused more times than others. If you look at the ending of Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, the ending was clearly inspired by that of Hard-Boiled. Even Damon Wayans is in on the act. Bulletproof (co-starring Adam Sandler and James Caan) reminded me of Wong Jing’s Crocodile Hunter (1989) regarding the premise of a cop who survives a bullet to the head. It also reminded me of Armour of God when a bullet goes through one lens of a man’s sunglasses. Given that one of Damon’s brothers has been proven to be a H.K. film fan, it stands to reason that the influence of H.K. cinema on his movies is a likelihood.

Tom Cruise is such a mega fan of H.K. movies to the extent that Righting Wrongs had influenced Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation to have Ethan Hunt hanging from a plane, whereas the romantic car chase in Jing’s The Big Score inspired Cruise for the first sequel to Mission: Impossible. The scene in Woo’s M:I-2 where Nyah wants Ethan to shoot her heart to spare her the biological pain is a nod to a similar scene from Woo’s Bullet in the Head. In a 1997 book titled The Essential Jackie Chan Sourcebook, it was documented that Jackie had expressed what he thought was an unmistakable similarity between the finale wind effects in Armour of God II: Operation Condor and those in the climactic train scene in Mission: Impossible. Daniel Eagan, a New York interviewer, added that Jackie was also incensed that the train finale was derivative of the one in Supercop. Personally, I think that Woo had more reasons to be embarrassed since his own train finale in the same year’s Broken Arrow (1996) paled in comparison despite having the dignity of it being seen earlier by 3 months. Broken Arrow only earned H.K.$ 14,462,850 from April 25 to June 7. Mission: Impossible earned H.K.$ 39,626,365 from June 13 to August 29.

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow inspired The Karate Kid, something that Corey Yuen had observed when he recommended to Ng See-Yuen about seeing the movie that would inspire them to do No Retreat, No Surrender. Like Jackie’s Kung Fu movie, The Karate Kid showed an old man catching flies with chopsticks. In terms of plot, both movies are about a young man who gets bullied before an old master saves him and teaches him indirectly before getting straight to the point. More significantly, both movies are more concerned with showing the relationship between disciple and teacher than spoiling you rotten with as many fight scenes as possible. The outfit that Chingmy Yau wore in Wong Jing’s City Hunter was an inspiration for Angelina Jolie’s outfit in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, whose bungee cord shootout is an epic version of the one in Jing’s Crocodile Hunter (whose intro had influenced a Bruce Willis movie titled Striking Distance). Payback was influenced by Jing’s Return to a Better Tomorrow (shooting Chinese gangsters inside a vehicle from underneath). This is fascinating since Jing’s movie is a remake of Woo’s A Better Tomorrow.

Steven Spielberg was so riveted by Jackie tagging vehicles in Sammo Hung’s Winners and Sinners that he decided to pitch that idea to the director of Back to the Future. Steven was well aware of Jackie trying to one-up the E.T. bicycle scene in Project A (especially since Jing used to have phone calls with Spielberg in the eighties), so Steven thought that he should allude to it. A reference to Project A comes in the form of Christopher Lloyd hanging off the face of the clock tower. Having Chris do it was a way to keenly acknowledge the ancient inspiration of Jackie – Harold Lloyd. Chan’s bicycle scene also had an influence on the motorcycle scene in Steven’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Speaking of Spielberg, the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the sniper is shot through the lens of his rifle was inspired by Woo’s Heroes Shed No Tears. It is fair because, not so coincidentally, Woo’s Bullet in the Head cleverly recreated the DeLorean’s fire streaks in Back to the Future in a way that was actually historically accurate.

The use of scaffolds in the church shootout of Woo’s The Killer (1989) was later reused by Ronny Harlin for Die Hard 2 (1990) during the terminal sequence. The henchmen are dressed in the same boiler suits as the ones in the beach house shootout in The Killer. This combination also influenced the finale of No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers. The inclusion of a church in Die Hard 2 was also a homage to Woo’s film, since producer Joel Silver is a fan of H.K. cinema (as can be seen in Lethal Weapon 4 and Exit Wounds). Woo’s use of freeze frames followed by dissolves was reused on a U.S. TV series titled Burn Notice. Mr. and Mrs. Smith was influenced by Jing’s High Risk (two reluctant allies firing from opposite ends of an active vehicle in a building) like how District 13: Ultimatum was. Another classic Wong Jing movie, The Last Blood (a.k.a. 12 Hours to Die), has such an appealing premise that Bey Logan ripped it off as The Blood Bond in screenplay form before it was made as Shadowguard (which doubles as a star vehicle and directorial début of Michael Biehn). Jing’s movie is better. It’s one of the most ambitious action movies to come out of H.K. whereas the Bey/Biehn joint comes off as another B-grade U.S. action movie, even though it is technically a Chinese movie.

The scene in Double Team where Hung Yan-Yan uses his right foot to wield a knife against Jean-Claude Van Damme was influenced by The Dragon From Russia. Speaking of knives, Stephen Chow’s From Beijing With Love had provided the inspiration for one scene in a Freddy Prince Jr. movie called Head Over Heels. In the latter film, Freddy plays an agent who has a woman in his apartment. He tries to impress her with his knife-throwing capabilities but appears to miss the intentional target, much to the amusement of his guest who thinks that he’s a lousy shot. That is until the camera zooms in to reveal that he successfully killed a fly. A similar thing had happened in between both movies i.e. the end of The Long Kiss Goodnight where a knife pins a cricket to a log. The co-star of the Geena Davis movie, Samuel L. Jackson, is a huge fan of H.K. cinema. God of Gamblers inspired the running gag in Pulp Fiction where a different unfortunate occurrence happens every time that a character goes to the lavatory.

Sam Raimi is also a huge fan of H.K. films, just like his long-time friend/producer Robert Tapert. The latter was responsible for the Xena TV series where Sam inserted gimmicks from H.K. movies. To green-light the show, they showed shots from Once Upon a Time in China, Swordsman IIFong Sai-Yuk and The Bride with White Hair. Raimi also tipped his hat to Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain for being a major influence on his work. Raimi’s Evil Dead II (1987) has a shot which shows the sideways perspective of a flying object (with the object constantly in the middle of the frame as it is in flight). However, Ching Siu-Tung also used this technique. In fact, A Chinese Ghost Story (also 1987) shares an idea with a deleted scene of Evil Dead II – a giant tongue, albeit one that comes from a tree instead of a woman’s decapitated head. The deviation isn’t that strong since both movies share the idea of a tree demon. In A Chinese Ghost Story III, however, we finally get to see a woman having a long tongue that she uses to her wicked advantage. This eventually formed the basis of a U.S. film titled Killer Tongue (starring Robert Englund).

Evil Dead II came out in the U.S. four months before the H.K. release date of A Chinese Ghost Story, but both films were made in 1986. It’s more likely that Raimi went to visit the film set in H.K. and was inspired. It might not come off as much of a surprise if one was to find out that the idea showcased in Raimi’s Spider-Man of having a protagonist discreetly elevated above an antagonist whilst the former is bleeding (and whose blood drops whilst the latter senses something is amiss after it drops) came from In The Line of Duty IV. As much as Jing gets accused of being a rip-off merchant, the premise of I Love Lolanto (1984) would end up being used by a Hollywood film studio for Overboard (the 1987 comedy starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn). The training sequence in The Mask of Zorro (1998) owes a debt to the one in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) except Antonio Banderas is doing push-ups above candles instead of incense. The sausage nunchaku sight gag in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) is a riff on the iconic fight in The Privates Eyes (1976).

The final fight in Broken Arrow, not the Woo movie but an episode of Arrow, reminds me of Jing’s Winner Takes All (a similar suit) and Twin Dragons (a similar motive in this Jackie movie). Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stole the all-passengers-are-undercover-operatives from Jing’s The Big Score. There’s even a `90s Canadian show that borrowed a sight gag from Jing’s City Hunter. In the Season 2 finale of Due South (titled Flashback), a group of women pretend that they are throwing a surprise birthday party for a man who they have tied up. In a Season 1 episode titled An Invitation to Romance, there was a sight gag borrowed from another Jackie Chan albeit one directed by Sammo Hung. In Wheels on Meals, the sight gag involved Jackie having to hide under a woman’s wedding dress as she walks away. In Knight and Day, Tom Cruise uses a seatbelt as a nunchaku like how Jet Li used his belt in Fist of Legend.

Back to Wheels on Meals, there is a sight gag in Sisters (the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler movie) that involves tricking the audience into thinking that two rooms are actually one. Sammo really was robbed of being a Hollywood director. Had he become one, more people would know if storytellers take his ideas. Maybe they wouldn’t have done had he become so famous. Keenan Ivory Wayans loves H.K. films, maybe even more than his aforementioned brother. Woo’s A Better Tomorrow II influenced A Low Down Dirty Shame. The use of an ice bullet in Most Wanted was inspired by Magic Crystal (written and directed by Jing). White Chicks was inspired by part of the plot of Don’t Give a Damn. As for remakes in general by other U.S. film-makers, Reservoir Dogs is a semi-remake of City on Fire. The Departed is a remake of Infernal Affairs. Next of Kin is a semi-remake of A Better Tomorrow. Raid on Royal Casino Marine was the inspiration for Under Siege. Finally, Loving You was remade as Until Death.


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