Following on from his interview last week, Tom Jolliffe selects his Five Essential Gary Daniels films…
When a plethora of martial art specialists were foist upon audiences in the late 80s and early 90s, there were a few who managed to find an audience and maintain lengthy careers in the video realm. One such star was Gary Daniels, who flew the British flag before anyone had heard of Jason Statham. Daniels major selling points were his excellent on screen fighting abilities and willingness to really throw himself into the action. Daniels performs most of his own stunts, whilst a hands on approach to action choreography, combined with a distinct MMA style has delivered plenty of excellent mano-a-mano brawls in his films.
Daniels continues to go at full pelt, and despite being near the big 5-0, he’s still in immense shape and barely looks a day over 30. He’s stood toe to toe (on film!) with Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, Lorenzo Lamas, Steven Seagal, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Jackie Chan, Wesley Snipes and bizarrely former WWE legend, The Ultimate Warrior. Here is the essential Gary Daniels…
5. City Hunter (1993)
The film where Gary Daniels first really gained recognition. Jackie Chan was the established star, well known for his high intensity fight sequences and Daniels proved to be a memorable foe for the Hong Kong legend. The film is highly entertaining and very funny, whilst Chan’s benchmark action sequences are typically thrilling. Daniels makes an intimidating henchman, even despite sporting a pony-tail and doing the splits in nothing but a pair of budgie smugglers (quite the introduction to action movie fans). The film’s defining moment is when Chan and Daniels transform into characters from the classic video game, Streetfighter. Daniels of course, with the long blond hair, is the ideal Ken.
4. Rage (1995)
One of several collaborations between Daniels and PM entertainment. PM (now sadly defunct) have garnered a cult following amongst video action fans, thanks to the time and care spent on the action. They made a concerted effort to bring blockbuster level action, to a low budget world. The films acted as showcases for a lot of the best stuntmen and stunt co-ordinators in the business, either before hitting it big, or just to stay in the mind of the big Hollywood studios. What you got in the best PM movies were lots of action, lots of variety and some often breath-taking stunts. In the same way as they shoot action films in Hong Kong, it was the action that came first and was given the time to deliver the goods, whereas generally in the direct to video world, action films ration their carnage, and often don’t spend the money to get the quality of stunt team to deliver good stuff. Rage is ample example of PM at their best. Forget the silly plot, just switch off your brain and enjoy the show. Its action packed!
3. Recoil (1998)
Another PM classic. The film almost literally jumps from one action scene to another. The car chases, which tend to be a PM speciality, are brilliant. Spiro Razatos, who’s one of Hollywood’s premiere stunt co-ordinators (recently responsible for Fast and Furious 5) is the man to thank here. Daniels, as normal, throws himself into the action. He’s amongst it all and the film offers ample opportunity amongst its vehicular carnage, for him to deliver some high kicking beat-downs.
2. Cold Harvest (1999)
Martial arts expert turned director, Isaac Florentine delivers this enjoyably cheesy post-apocalyptic western. Gary Daniels does a Van Damme here and plays twins. One has glasses and is thus not hard. The other is a bounty hunter who’s an expert in martial arts and weaponry, and is thus very hard. The fight scenes are brilliantly done, whilst the stunt team offer plenty of impressive physical feats. As per normal Daniels leads the line well, maintaining a breakneck pace that puts the action in the league of the Hong Kong action cinema.
1. Riot (1997)
Probably PM’s best work. Daniels must enter a cordoned off riot zone to rescue his ex from kidnappers. The bad guys in the movie tick about every cliché you can think of in the book, particularly the Irish terrorists (with woeful Irish accents). The film's pace is brisk and it’s loaded with really imaginative action and eye catching stunt work. The film is a strong endorsement in the case for live action stunts over CGI fakery. Standouts include Daniels fighting off a gang of stunt bikers, and being chased down by a car in a multi-storey car park. The late Charles Napier co-stars, as does legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard (he’s not quite as adept in front of the camera as he was in the ring!).
Fist of the North Star (1995)
White Tiger (1996)
Fatal Blade (2001)
Hunt to Kill (2010)
The Expendables (2010)
Agree? Disagree? We'd love to hear your comments...
Be sure to check out Tom's interview with Gary Daniels, which you can read here.