Back in the ’90s TBS had the best programming in television history. Their late night lineup was a steady stream of lesser-known kung fu classics and more recent Hong Kong imports–everything from Circle of Iron to Fist of Legend. Jackie Chan had finally broken into American theaters and a backlog of great fighting movies came flooding in with him. Let’s just say it was an awesome time to be in college.
This is when I first saw the greatest fight in screen history: Jackie Chan vs. Benny the Jet in the execrable Wheels on Meals (that’s not a typo). There’s a food truck and a Spanish contessa and a kidnapping or something…honestly I don’t remember anything else about the movie. I think I fell asleep a half hour in, but that’s at least partially due to it being 1 am or something.
That really adds to the greatness of the fight, in a way. I groggled my way to half-awake just in time to see this:
Jackie Chan vs. Benny the Jet, greatest fight ever. I think you can find the whole thing on YouTube, but don’t bother.
This is Jackie Chan in his earlier days. The comedic fighter that Americans would not get to see first hand for another ten years is clearly in evidence, but there are not so many gimmicks and stunts–just pure fighting with a sassy, funny attitude. He’s so youthful here, and proves that he’s not just a glorified stunt-man or a Chinese Buster Keaton. You can see why studios flirted with making him a replacement for Bruce Lee in the ’70s.
Part of the legend of this scene is that, although the fight had been choreographed, Jackie and Benny started sparring and really went after each other. They are going all out trying to tag each other and the cameras just rolled to catch it.
If this legend is not true, it’s still quite remarkable: the physical acting is incredible. The kineticism (can I say that? sure, it’s my blog) is just awesome. If that fight is just pro choreography it is masterfully executed. Either way, we are talking about two young fighters doing some pretty amazing stuff. When Benny’s spin kick puts out the candles, that’s done in one take, real time, no tricks.
Their match-up was so good they had to team up for an encore four years later, in Dragons Forever. It’s got more gimmicks but you can still see the pure fighting in there, and depending on my mood it might be even better than the Wheels fight (Wheels is marred by the impossible kick-punch combo that gives Jackie the winning edge).
Oh, and the sound effects are a PLUS!