Features and Columns

Choreographed Chaos: The Realistic Fighting Style of Donnie Yen

Here’s a video essay on why Donnie Yen’s fight choreography kicks ass. Literally.
Donnie Yen Kill Zone
By  · Published on June 14th, 2020

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Western audiences may only be familiar with Donnie Yen‘s acting chops. But his influence, both as an action director and fight choreographer, is just about as powerful as, well…the man himself.

Yen is a part of a very small group of action stars who (1) are equally competent choreographers, and (2) have a recognizable fighting style all their own. Fight scenes crafted by Yen feel different, from the high impact kicks to the subtle variations in speed and the brutal grit that separates him from the improbable ballet brawls of his peers. There is a priority on pain in a Donnie Yen fight scene, a choreographed chaos that often aligns with the impulsive, violent characters he plays.

Of course, Yen’s brilliance goes far beyond simply pioneering a grittier approach to Hong Kong action. As detailed in the two-part video essay below, Yen has pushed the limits of his discipline, infusing realism into choreography by embracing the narrative potential of messiness.

You can watch Art of Donnie Yen’s Fight Choreography” here:


Who made this?

“Art of Donnie Yen’s Fight Choreography” was created by ScorpioDanielNerd aka Cheng Guo (Daniel), a video essayist and filmmaker based in Singapore. You can find ScorpioDanielNerd on YouTube here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).