A couple of years ago, when I was preparing for my blogging project whereby I would systematically work through Jet Li’s filmography (naively assuming that it would take me a few months instead of more than 2 years), I watched all of the special features on the DVDs I could get at the time and jotted down some good juicy quotes from a couple of books on martial arts films I was dipping into at the time. Unfortunately, just being a weekend blogger and not a proper academic, I haven’t had as much time to read as widely on the subject as I would have liked (there are so many great books on this rich area of cinema out there). But one book I did unearth in the State Library of Victoria, and subsequently read, was UK academic Leon Hunt’s Kung Fu Cult Masters. I cannot recommend this book enough, as it is a beautiful piece of scholarship that is inspired by Hunt’s own life long fandom of such stars as Bruce Lee and Jet Li and kung fu films in general. The book is very readable at the same time as being rigorously researched and cram packed with a stimulating array of ideas and theories. Hunt draws on a wide range of sources to inform his writing, and his book has supplied me with many great quotes that I have used in my blogs. Among my notes on Lethal Weapon 4, I found the following quote. I have decided not to use it or to try to address the issues it raises in depth in one of my own blogs because I feel don’t have enough of a grounding in these issues to do so adequately. But it is a glorious quote, too good to waste, and it really made me think, so I reproduce it here for your reading pleasure:
“It (Jet Li’s character in Lethal Weapon 4) both plays to a ‘dominant’ reading of the sadistic, mysterious ‘Oriental’ and allows some notional (if limited and peripheral) identification with him for the ‘cult’ audience that Li’s casting was clearly meant to attract. Just before his final fight, Li is ‘humanised’ by a moving scene with his dying brother… The romancing of the Other (usually prior to its destruction or co-opting) can be seen as characteristic of what Christopher Sharrett calls the ‘sacrificial excess’ of late capitalism. Such texts are marked by ‘a sacrificial violence that acknowledges the Other by its obliteration, a strategy that admits both the credulity and the scepticism of the spectator; the ‘specialness’ of the Other and our sympathies with it are acknowledged as its monstrous aspect is confirmed’. But, perhaps more significantly, this sacrifice also seems to be in the service of renewal of a cinema that (like its protagonists) fears that it may be ‘too old for this shit’. Thus Hollywood both incorporates and symbolically annihilates its ‘younger’, more dynamic, counterpart.” p. 159
Meanwhile I will continue to work on my blog about Li’s performance in Lethal Weapon 4, which I hope to post soon.