That’s it folks, Tony Jaa has called it quits (for the time being at least). The Thai martial artist, stuntman, and action movie star who starred in Ong Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong has traded in fist wraps and bad guy pounding for a monk robe and meditation. So who then , will deliver fans their much needed dose of face punching action in his place? Who could possibly fill the shoes of one of the most gravity defying kickers of ass today? Here are eight worthy prospects…
1. Dan Chupong
Chupong, to me, is the most likely candidate to take up the Jaa torch. Sahamongkol Film International, responsible for the Ong Bak franchise, has been grooming him as their next big action star since ’04. He’s a younger, if slightly less charismatic version of Tony — but with confidence and more work on the acting front, Chupong could most certainly find himself on equal footing with the Muy Thai master.
2. Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda
I didn’t know a lot about Jeeja before this, but holy shit — do I ever want to see her featured in more films! Not only can she break her foot off in your ass, but she’d do so while being freakin’ adorable. Discovered during casting for another Sahamongkol production, ‘o4’s Born to Fight, the production company went on to make her a lead in two of their films — Chocolate, and Raging Phoenix.
Much more Jeeja, please.
3. Marko Zaror
Zaror has been on my radar for a while, as I believe he has the looks and skill to be a strong action star. Even better; he owns his own production company in Mandrill Films — dude can self-promote. Zaror, a 6ft 3in Chilean, is difficult to miss. As a teenager he was a second degree black belt in not only Karate, but Tae KwonDo, winning many awards for his abilities as part of the Chilean National Team. Most recently, Zaror played the character of Dolor in what looks to be the mighty fun Undisputed III: Redemption. Get a load of “The Latin Dragon” doing some crazy awesome stuff in the following video.
4. Iko Uwais
Another young and exceedingly talented martial artist turned actor, Uwais made his debut last year in Welsh director Gareth Evans’ film, Merantau. An expert at the Indonesian martial art, Silat, Iko brings a unique flavor to the action film table. With a plate heavy on Muy Thai, Kung Fu, and other traditionally used fighting arts, it’s nice to see something new and exciting. It’s pretty incredible that, before this film, Iko had absolutely no experience in front of a camera — he was a truck driver. Having that level of screen presence so early on can only mean good things for him, and for us.
Iko Uwais is set to star in yet another Evans film, Berendal, later this year. Keep an eye out; the kid is a lot of fun to watch.
5. Michael Chuah
Chuah, a practitioner of various Chinese martial arts (wushu), is a triple threat. He writes, directs, and recently starred in his directorial debut film, Fist of Dragon. Like Jeeja, I didn’t know a lot about him until recently, but what I have seen feels promising. Perpetually good guy standing up against evil gangs of douches with weird hair? Check. Kooky oddball character making lame jokes? Sho’ nuff. Squeeky, cute girls? You know it. Ridiculous fighting odds? Right on.
Hello, every martial arts movie plot from the mid-nineties — I’ve missed you.
No matter what the new breed brings, it’s always fun to get that Jackie Chan feel from an martial arts movie — fast, fluid, brutal, amazingly choreographed action. An interesting note — Chuah wasn’t even supposed to be in the film; the lead left the movie right before filming was to begin and he took the part due to lack of time. I hope he sticks around in front of the camera. Michael Chuah belongs there.
6. Ray Park
You may not know Ray Park, the Glasgow native and expert practitioner of such arts as Kung Fu, kickboxing, and wushu — but you’ve seen him plenty if you like action movies. Park has performed in non-speaking roles and as a stunt double since 1997. Remember Baraka in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation? That was Park. The Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow? Him again. His beefiest parts, however, came as Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Toad in X-Men, and most recently as the silent ninja commando Snake-Eyes in 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Ray is sort of a wild-card in that, he’s five years from forty, and to this point his ability to act really hasn’t been put to the test( I don’t count his part in Heroes, seeing as that show had the mysterious ability to sap a mostly talented cast of all acting ability). That said, his physical showmanship is off the scale; I submit that he is every bit as talented as anyone on this list, if not more. He’s certainly fun to watch.
Pardon the music — now be amazed:
7. Scott Adkins
Adkins is the straight to DVD king of martial artists, many of his offerings of the assy variety. Remember Pit Fighter? Special Forces USA? The Shepherd: Border Patrol? Having viewed them is likely to produce symptoms of PTSD. Avoid. That said, the Brit with at least four martial arts expertly tucked under his black belt has put together some fun flicks; the two most noteworthy being turns in the Undisputed series. The films are everything a fan of posterior kicking cinema could dream of; over the top action, crazy camerawork, and dudes built like brick shithouses absolutely destroying one another.
Adkins definitely has the look — he’s big, bad, and has a perpetual scowl. Of course, therein may lie the problem. As far as range is concerned, Adkins seems to have mastered angry, serious, grumpy, sort of bummed out, really angry, and I’m going to kill you. Maybe that works, but personally, I like the idea of my action heroes having a little bit more depth.
8. Sasha Mitchell
Hey, he may be forty two now, but I smell comeback! Hell…Patrick Duffy can join in the fun too.