Review by Michael Jacobson
Jackie Chan, Wesley Snipes, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester
Stallone, et al
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Flix Mix
Features: See Review
Length: 54 Minutes
Release Date: April 16, 2002
here to chew some bubble gum and to kick some ass. And I’m all out of bubble gum.” – from
those fans who think there’s too much time wasted with dialogue and plot in
action films comes Ultimate Fights, a near hour long compilation of just
the good parts. Forget romance,
drama, humor, or anything else that doesn’t ooze testosterone.
Hard hitting, bone crunching, blood spewing wall-to-wall violence is all
that’s on the menu here.
is not something I criticize in and of itself, mind you, but watching Ultimate
Fights, I couldn’t help ask…what is it for? If it played like a tribute to the best in action films and
their stars, I think I could have gotten into it a little more.
But here is a presentation that, save for one film out of 16, doesn’t
even bother to show the fight scenes in their correct aspect ratio!
Apart from that, it takes one of action’s most legendary fight scenes
and cuts it down to its bare sound bite minimum!
fight is from Drunken Master II, aka The Legend of Drunken Master, starring
Jackie Chan, whose climactic 20 minute fight scene has become the stuff of
legends on every continent, as well as a staple scene by which most other movie
fights get compared. Here, we get
only three minutes of it, and don’t come anywhere close to the end of the
fight! Granted, maybe lifting a
whole twenty minutes from one movie into a compilation is too much to ask for,
but again, the question is begged…what is it for?
True Asian action film fans like myself aren’t going to appreciate the
truncated version. Those who would
think that three minutes was sufficient…well, I have no advice for them.
worse is that scene, along with many other films in scope ratio, are presented
here in pan & scan. From the
opening licks of Rumble in the Bronx, the shattered compositions are
disastrous. Few fight
choreographers made as brilliant use of widescreen as Jackie Chan, but here, his
efforts are wasted. We don’t even
see who he’s punching and kicking half the time…we might as well be watching
with one eye closed!
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon merited a widescreen presentation.
Not even the film that beat it for Best Picture, Gladiator, earned
such prestige in this collection! Other
widescreen fights that suffer here include Blade and Scarface.
next question one has to ask is, what does this compilation represent?
The best of the best? Hardly,
though it IS arguably a good cross section.
I was pleased to find a couple of Jackie Chan’s best show pieces mixed
in with under-appreciated but brilliant fight scenes like in Blade or Dragon:
The Bruce Lee Story. But others
left me scratching my head…does Snatch deserve mention alongside The
Killer? Does the campy girl
fight scene in The Players Club or the ridiculous street brawl in They
Live (which may have set a film record for most knees in the groin) even
belong in a compilation called Ultimate Fights?
like most collections of this sort, there are bound to be some sore spots
amongst fans as to what wasn’t included as opposed to what was.
For my money, no fight scene compilation could be complete without Jackie
Chan’s legendary bout with American kickboxing champion Benny “The Jet”
Urquidez in Wheels on Meals, or Jet Li’s acrobatics atop swaying
ladders in Once Upon a Time in China. This
video names Bruce Lee the top martial artist, but where are his films?
Surely the mirror sequence in Enter the Dragon merits mention?
when the existing choices are lined up and presented one right after another,
it’s hard not to appreciate the eyes behind the selections.
I’m grateful at least that some action fans might get a taste of Asian
glory with this collection, including great scenes from Fist of Legend, Black
Mask, and The Killer. Scenes
of grace and style play against scenes of hardcore bloodshed…it’s all in a
day’s work for action stars.
I’m reading too much into it all. Ultimate
Fights is easily enjoyed on the most base level by delivering action, action
and more action while trimming all fat and excess.
It’s not the best of action by any means, but still serves as an
interesting selection, and one that’s bound to get fans excited about seeking
out a few of these films and watching them in their entirety.
widescreen problem really eats at me here and prevents me from giving a higher
rating to an otherwise fine video presentation, which maintains a sense of
quality from start to finish despite the included films’ various ages and
backgrounds. If you don’t follow
Asian films as closely, you might not be distracted by the pan & scan as
much, but for me, I found myself missing every object or fighter that was
cropped out of the viewing area.
5.1 soundtrack is quite explosive, as you might expect…the more modern the
movie clip, the better the use of sound. Fists,
blades and bullets slash every which way, keeping you right in the middle of the
action. The scenes are intercut
with some good techno music clips as well.
There is not much dynamic range here, however…the film plays at one
a film that clocks in at under an hour, Flix Mix certainly delivered an
impressive features package here. The
best for me was the commentary track by legendary director Tsui Hark, who talks
about each scene specifically as it plays.
A second commentary features different fight masters explaining how
certain effects were achieved.
included is a 10 minute featurette on staging fight scenes, a music-only track
that scores a techno beat to the fight scenes, a name-that-frame trivia game,
profiles of some of the featured stars, trailers for some of the included
movies, a programming feature that lets you play your top five clips, stats for
each fight, some DVD ROM extras, and a cool subtitle feature called Flix Facts.
When activated, you get some extra trivia and notes about each fight
sequence as it plays.