I've been thinking about reviewing martial arts movies on this blog but I've decided it would be a bit of a futile exercise.
There are just so many that even if I uploaded one a week for a few years, the sheer volume out there would mean it would in no way serve as a useful archive of kung fu film critiques.
So instead I'm going to talk generally about the genre in a series of posts (hopefully, if I stay motivated) with reference to particular films.
I recently watched Shaolin (2011) which is a film that has both the good and the bad of a modern martial arts movie.
In this post I'm going to talk about the good but I'll get to the bad later.
The good is the action which is incredible thanks to the high-quality cast - step forward Andy Lau, Jackie Chan and Jacky Wu Jing - and the fight choreography.
It's fast and believable - and by believable I mean it looks like they are actually hitting each other and that those strikes would hurt.
The kung fu teeters perfectly between the geniune and the implausible.
This must be a difficult thing to achieve but it's what makes the best modern martial arts movies.
I love the old Shaw Brothers films before wires were used to add fantasy elements to the action.
I'm still wowed by the speed and accuracy of the actors bodies as well as their stamina in the epic fight scenes.
Hand Of Death (1976), Snake In The Eagle's Shadow (1978) and The Drunken Master (1978) are perfect examples of this type of film making.
Early wire work used to get on my nerves. It was just too crude and largely unneccesary.
Cinema moves on though. The best of these films were made in the Seventies and starred the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao when they were in their late teens or very early twenties.
These days we need more from our action films, whether Asian or big Hollywood productions.
Bruce Lee's American outings may have been the start of the European love affair with martial arts films but they also helped perpetuate a thirst for action to be bigger, faster and louder on the big screen.
The Eighties produced a torrent of big-budget films full of muscular men blowing up everything in sight and ending their enemies with showers of bullets - The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Predator (1987), Rambo (1982).
And even when martial arts were employed as we moved in to the Nineties, the fight scenes were combined with the aforementioned hailstorms of lead - Double Impact (1991), Under Seige (1992), Jackie Chan's First Strike (1996).
It's my least favoutite period in the genre.
Which brings us to the Noughties and a return to the fists leading the action.
By now though, we had feasted on a diet of guns and explosions. We needed more than Shaw Brothers-era showdowns if kung fu was going to hold our attention.
So we got wuxia - beautifully stylised productions, stories packed with chivalry and sacrifice and where the action was a combination of great martial arts and clever wire work, far more developed than those early attempts.
This is really the era belonging to Jet Li, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang and Michelle Yeoh - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), House Of Flying Daggers (2004), Hero (2002), Fearless (2006).
They are beautiful films but the action is firmly set in the fantasy side of things.
Watching the protagonists run across the treetops in Crouching Tiger is almost comical and it doesn't mean to be.
And so we're back at Shaolin. The action works because the wires have been reigned in.
They're there but you hardly notice them. It means the characters carry out moves that are both beyond what we know the human body to be capable of but also plausible.
The best kung fu movies do this. The action requires disbelief to be suspended - but only a little bit.
Ip Man (2008), Ong Bak (2003) and Dragon Tiger Gate (2006) fit in here. Thank you Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa.
There you have it. A brief history of action in martial arts movies as my explanation of why Shaolin works.