Is the martial arts genre of film suffering a drought in the West? The last English movies with martial arts prominently featured to receive a wide release AND be good were Kiss of the Dragon and the Kill Bill volumes (Brotherhood of the Wolf and The One were both disappointments, and I'll get to the Matrix films shortly). Please note, I am referring to action movies and exclude drama, thus eliminating the Last Samurai and films of its ilk.

Lacking English fare, my knee-jerk reaction was to then look to Hong Kong as the last decade or so has seen Drunken Master 2 and Fist of Legend and many other films of lesser note. Alas, the Chinese have moved toward the wire-fu trend, a resurfaced technique from the 70s that completely dilutes pure martial ability and has unfortunately leaked into the Western mind as entertaining, the Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which wasn't even English) being main culprits. On occaison, wires can be employed to SUPPLEMENT a scene, much like the subtle utilization in Drunken Master 2 where the combat was the focus and not the "flying," but the bandwagon insists on creating impossible stunts with actors completely lacking in athleticism, and the resulting farce is packaged and distributed via world-wide release.

However, I believe I may hear the sound of the abundance of rain as new contenders are stepping to the ring. Thailand, with her glorious propensity for frilless presentation, has recently birthed one of the best fighting films I've seen in years, Ong Bak. Straightforward, no wires, amazing scenes with speed and a real sense of power (The Bride vs Vernita and The Bride vs Elle gave tantalizingly brief tastes of this), it's like watching Jackie (and Sammo, and Yuen) or Bruce in their prime. Unfortunately this movie has YET to see an American release (and I believe a severely limited one for the Britons, though I may be mistaken).

English folk, I beseech you, return to your roots and recruit an amazing foreign martial artist/actor and give them money, give them lots of money and cameras and let me see the result. Hell, pick up a local lad or lass and stick 'em on film, just please make sure they know what they're doing, and please, just let them fight. No more wires. Is that too hard to ask?