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Asian guys in Hollywood, or everyone gets to be a ninja

Yay, Asian actors are working in Hollywood! It’s so awesome that Snake Eyes wants to shoot someone.

Snake Eyes

Just a week ago, Korean actor Lee Byung-Hun made his Hollywood debut in G..I JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA. In celebration of Lee Byung-Hun - or LBH as we like to call him in these parts - joining an exclusive club including Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada, Chow Yun-Fat, Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Daniel Henney, Rain and Park Jung-Hoon (You all saw THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE, right?), I’m going to talk about G.I. JOE. Well, Lee Byung-Hun’s part in it anyway.

Jackie Chan supports Lee Byung-Hun:

“This guy makes an awesome ninja!”

Yep, Lee Byung-Hun plays a ninja in G.I. JOE. Just like Sho Kosugi in ENTER THE NINJA and Rain in the upcoming NINJA ASSASSIN. Like movies based on toys, casting Asian megastars as ninjas is the new trend.

Here’s a shot of Rain:

Rain after hearing about SPEED RACER’s opening weekend numbers.

In G.I. JOE, LBH plays Storm Shadow, ninja assassin and arch-enemy to the G.I. JOE team’s mute commando Snake Eyes, who’s played by Ray “Darth Maul” Park in a rubber mask and accessorized rubber muscles. LBH really has only a few scenes in the film, and they mainly require him to fight, glower in a threatening manner, and lean against metal props while someone else drones on and on about their evil plans at world domination.

He also wears a cool white outfit:

It’s Lee Byung-Hun. Really.

Actually, despite playing a character that’s A) a henchman to the bad guy, B) knows martial arts, and C) is probably a whiz at math, LBH’s casting in G.I. JOE is fairly noteworthy because A) he gets plenty of face time, and B) he takes off his shirt.


He’s not wearing a mask! However, he’s carrying someone else’s luggage.

Woohoo! Korean beefcake!

Overall, G.I. JOE is probably not going to win any awards, but my female friends all left the film saying, “Wow, Lee Byung-Hun was great! I couldn’t stop drooling!” In fact, they thought he was so great that they neglected to notice that he was fighting super-cool ninja assassin commando Snake Eyes. Conversely, my brother thought Snake Eyes kicked ass, but did not notice LBH at all.

Considering that G.I. JOE is a super-mega Hollywood production that tries to appeal to multiple demographics, the filmmakers probably are happy to hear the above. Basically, by having LBH rip off his shirt during the final Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow duel, they provided something for both male and female viewers. The guys get a silent badass in black, and the women get a totally ripped, slightly metrosexual hunk of manflesh who himself is somewhat of a badass. Everybody wins.

The high point for everyone in G.I. JOE.

Time will tell if LBH gets more Hollywood work, though one would hope he could do something no Asian male has done since who knows when - play a romantic lead. Sure, the Asian guys in action movies get the girl from time to time, but it’s been ages since there was actually an Asian male starring in a romantic film. Chow Yun-Fat sort of qualified in ANNA AND THE KING, though it seems that the whole point of that movie was that romance between its leads was not possible. Anyway, LBH won’t be seeing any romance in G.I. JOE 2 because Storm Shadow would be about the 156th G.I. Joe character in line for a romantic interest.

This guy probably won’t get any nookie in his Hollywood debut either:

“I can take on anyone in this crowd!”

Last week to the shock and dismay of fanboys all over North America, Jay Chou was cast as Kato in the upcoming GREEN HORNET movie. Comments about his casting pretty much went like this: “He looks gay!”, “Stephen Chow would have been better!”, “They should have got Jet Li or Donnie Yen!” or “Hell, Chow Yun-Fat would be better than this guy!”

Andy Lau thinks its funny:

“You hear that Jay? They’d rather cast me as Kato!”

Some people probably would prefer to cast Andy Lau as Kato, which would be terrible. I’m also not for the previously cast Stephen Chow because A) he’s too old, B) he’s too old, and C) he’s too old. Stephen Chow would have worked as Kato if original rumored star George Clooney were still up for the Green Hornet role, but since they’re casting the guy from KNOCKED UP as GH, pretty much anyone over the age of 35 is too old to play Kato.

“Remember me? I’m the producer of DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION!”

Jay Chou should be fine as Kato. Besides being of appropriate age, he’s got the right comic chops to fit into a GREEN HORNET as re-imagined by Seth Rogen and Michael Gondry. His lead role in the otherwise execrable KUNG FU DUNK showed that he possesses a sheepish comic charisma that’s similar to that owned by the early nineties Stephen Chow.

Some of Stephen Chow’s earlier works would work fine if recast with Jay Chou - though the films themselves would probably have to be directed in a more subtle manner. Jay Chou could probably play the lovable, clueless loser played by Stephen Chow in LOVE ON DELIVERY, and even the concepts behind SHAOLIN SOCCER or FROM BEIJING WITH LOVE could work with Jay Chou in the lead. Still, there are some Stephen Chow roles, like in OUT OF THE DARK or GOD OF COOKERY, that Chou is probably not ready for.

However, Jay Chou can compose and sing, and Stephen Chow isn’t really hot at either. And can Stephen Chow do this?

Oh my god, the cup is floating! IT’S FLOATING!

Hopefully, they won’t make Kato a ninja.

12 Responses to “Asian guys in Hollywood, or everyone gets to be a ninja”

  1. anotherlonelyday Says:

    won’t earlier stephen chow movies directed in a more subtle manner..not really be stephen chow then? i always thought chow’s comic ability was found in his body language. sometimes exaggerated, sometimes in your face and sometimes subtle etc etc.

    i don’t think chou just displaying a limited-range-version of earlier chow movies would be as effective or even half fun.

    the green hornet was tres interesting for me when it was first announced rogen was writing the script and really wanted chow to play kato. that actually materialised and eventually continued with chow as actor AND directing duties.

    that excited me because i thought ‘ok sure chow is playing a martial arts character’, but with his involvement as director, surely he would give himself (and in effect) a ‘positive’ asian male portrayal in hollywood; something which as you mention has questionable results with other actors.

    chow comes across to me as incredibly shrewd and smart* which is no news really but he must have accepted the terms on his conditions. the fact he has pulled out altogether kind of confirms to me, he will not compromise his dignity/creative control (especially after experiences with mira-axe i guess).

    *numerous mentions by wong jing in interviews (the guy himself is actually quite interesting).

  2. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    Hi anotherlonelyday,

    I never meant to say that Jay Chou could somehow be some sort of Stephen Chow replacement. I simply think that Chou has the same type of likable comic charisma - for certain types of roles.

    One of Chow’s stock character types is the lovable, generally clueless but still amazingly talented dope (LOVE ON DELIVERY, FROM BEIJING WITH LOVE). I think Jay Chou has the potential to play that type, though not the stuff like ROYAL TRAMP, OUT OF THE DARK or GOD OF COOKERY.

    Anyway, the above is just personal conjecture and Jay Chou may end up disappointing as Kato. On paper, I think it could work, but we’ll see in about a year. Frankly, I rather see Stephen Chow DIRECT Jay Chou, but who knows if that’ll ever happen.

    Chow is obviously very smart and very talented, but he’s also quite mercurial. His big breakthroughs this decade (SHAOLIN SOCCER, KUNG HUSTLE) were great because they pretty much validated ALL the man’s talent (acting, directing, etc.).

    However, since then all he’s done is one film (CJ7) and he barely appeared in it. It would be great if we could see at least 5-6 more films from him (acting/directing or both) before he turns 60, but at the rate he’s going it looks unlikely.

  3. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar Says:

    Jay will be fine? How about someone who can act (well usually act) and convincingly fight like Shawn Yue, Wu Jing or Nick Tse or anyone from the cast of Invisible Target or any other Benny Chan-ish film? Actually, because Seth Rogan is involved, I have every confidence this film will be a steaming pile of poop anyway but I would have been thrilled to see some of the HK stars that I like (who aren’t 45-50) involved getting some Hollywood exposure. I was excited when it was announced that Stephen Chow would direct it and have been less than thrilled with each subsequent announcement. If they get Anthony, Francis or Ti Lung in the film as guest stars let me know, I might give a crap

  4. anotherlonelyday Says:

    actually come to think about it chou is rather similar to chow and i’m not talking about acting style/abilities. chou comes across also as someone very smart and shrewd. he might be taking the role on his conditions too. i think he’s got too much pride to do anything second rate.

    also what’s with the rogen beef, i quite like his work/writing. interesting to see how it’s gonna work though.

  5. Leemoy Says:

    If there is a possibility they cast Jay Chow, why not consider Louis Koo? LOL

    As well it seems Hong Kong has few young superestars talents, so besides I don’t like Jay Chow’s acting it would not abe an upset see him in a highbugdet Hollywood movie.

    P.S: Hey, Kozo you should have bet eat a bug if Vengeance was not a great movie. I am sure Johnnie To would have slaped the screenwriter to write a better script.

  6. 1lau Says:

    Hmm a lot about Hollywood this time. I didn’t know Chow directed the Dragonball movie.

    Stephen Chow is a huge blockbuster at any Comedy.

    @ Leemoy Yeah Louis Koo is a lot better then Jay Chou!

  7. Leemoy Says:

    Chow didn’t directed Dragon Ball. He was the producer and he write a first version of Dragon Ball script, but as always Fox adapted the script for their taste.

  8. Minh Says:

    Kozo, on the topic of asian guys in hollywood, have you seen the compilation of Tarantino’s top 20 movies since 1992 he put out recently. Any comments about the asian movies that made it to his list:

    Battle Royale was his clear #1!

  9. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    Hi Leemoy,

    I probably had fewer problems with Vengeance than most, but it definitely had screenwriting issues. I may post my opinion of the film on my blog later. I won’t be making anymore foolish promises about eating insects.

    Hi Minh,

    Thanks for posting that link. I really wasn’t prepared to hear QT ramble for 6 minutes so I only watched the first 2 minutes before reading the full list of movies. It’s excellent that he included 7 Asian films on his Top 20 list. My opinion on QT has always been mixed — he’s a good filmmaker but terribly self-indulgent. However, he does love movies, both Asian and otherwise, which is something I can’t help but respect.

    I was happiest to see Tsui Hark’s BLADE on his list. I only hope someone at Warners was paying attention and will finally release that film from their vaults. Freeing PEDICAB DRIVER would be nice too.

  10. Bernard Says:

    I actually don’t mind Jay playing Kato. Besides not being able to really fight… he’d be great as the no-talking limo driver of the Hornet that gets him out of trouble.

    It will definitely be a comedy and I think Jay works better in comic films than any other genre.

  11. vid Says:

    Seems the obvious question nobody has asked is…can Jay Chou speak English well? If he can then I’d be ok with it but I think they only cast Chou because of his popularity in Asia and not because of his acting.

  12. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    I’m sure Jay can speak English well enough to appear in a Hollywood film. Hell, if Zhang Ziyi and Shu Qi can do it, I don’t see why Jay can’t.

    BTW, first spy photo of Jay on the set, plus pictures of his stunt double:

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