Kung Fu Cinema Madness! Here’s my tribute to kung fu superstar Donnie Yen in his darkest and maybe best film, SPL (殺破狼, 2005) – Known as Kill Zone in North America.
American-born Donnie Yen has been a martial arts actor & choreographer in the Hong Kong film industry since the late 1980’s. Though he was widely considered one of cinema’s best martial artists, megastardom like that of contemporary Jet Li consistently eluded him in the first half of his career. After a brief stint in Hollywood (that’s him as samurai vampire “Snowman” in Blade 2!), he returned to Hong Kong to make SPL, the first in a series of collaborations with director Wilson Yip. These films would eventually lead to Ip Man, the smash hit about Bruce Lee’s master that would finally bestow to Donnie the superstar status that he had long sought after.
This newfound fame was not without a price. While Yen could make polished, big budget films with elaborate action sequences, his status as a Chinese National Hero meant he could now only play heroic characters in stories with happy endings.
Here then, is my tribute to that brief perfect moment before Ip Man, when he was pushing the boundaries of action cinema but was still obscure enough to play anti-heroes in dark serious films.
1/6 Donnie Yen in Saat Po Long / Kill Zone
With natural lighting to show the paint job:
One more full body shot:
On the Shelf:
For the real fans who know the score:
RECIPE FOR THIS DONNIE YEN SPL FIGURE:
Head – Enterbay Ip Man (recast, drilled, repainted, added real hair)
Body – Soldier Story (elongated neck)
Hands – HT & Enterbay
Shirt – 21C (Their shirt uses surprisingly thin material! I took the shirt in heavily for a better fit and added buttons. I also sewed it close.)
Pants – TTL
Jacket – Ebay knockoff of Saturday Toys Prison Break sets. Heavily taken in for that fitted look.
Baton – Hot Toys
Necklace – Custom
Boots – ITPT zip up jack boots (opened it up, reshaped it into square toe, sculpted new sole, added straps and ring)
Finally found some time to work on figures. I wanted to practice my blonde hair painting technique as I find that hair colour very hard to capture.
Both of these happen to be Feng headsculpts released commercially with terrible paint jobs. I stripped the paint off and repainted with Liquitex acrylics (truly loads better than the cheap craft paints – Try them). Feng’s sculpts can border on caricature, but to me that just gives them more character and feel than other more accurate but conservative portraits.
First up is 12″ action figure of Daniel Craig as James Bond in Quantum Of Solace. The original head sculpt came from the Toys City Gestapo 12″ figure set.
Second is Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer in Blood Diamond. The headsculpt is from the Toymaster War Journalist 12″ figure set. The eyes are moveable and I almost destroyed them painting, stripping and repainting them 4 times (seriously). In the end, the eye paint ended up looking almost the same as the factory eye paint.
He still needs weathering and a weapon upgrade courtesy of Subway’s 24 Hero set (can’t wait for that fig).
Here’s my kitbash/custom 12″ action figure of Michael Man Tak Wong as “Stone Wong” from the best Hong Kong SDU film, First Option (1996). SDU stands for Special Duties Unit – The Hong Kong police’s SWAT team. During the 1990’s, Hong Kong cinema had a small crazy over the SDU and produced several movies of mostly low quality. The best were The Final Option and its prequel, First Option, both starring Michael Wong and directed by Gordon Chan. Both were ahead of their time in their emphasis on combining realistic tactics and gear with hard-hitting action scenes. Worth seeking out if you are an action fan!
Hot Toys’ SDU 3.0 figure sported a decent sculpt of Michael Wong, but it was lacking the very awesome and militaristic haircut that Michael wore in the film. That haircut is practically the whole character! After owning and staring at the head for 4 years, I decided to try and customize the head to the style I wanted and create the Stone Wong figure I’ve always aimed to have in my collection.
Head: Hot Toys SDU 3.0 head molded & recast, sculpted new hairdo, painted with acrylics.
Jeans: Early HT
Gloves: Store-rooms ripoff gloves (they’re sticky), repainted to simulate texture of the vinyl-looking SDU gloves
Vest: Very Hot
M4: Dragon LA SWAT
Everything weathered lightly.
Original vs Customized headsculpt:
Modifications to the ACE 12″ figure body to make it fit clothes better:
Test fit on raw, unweathered gear:
Weathering on SDU Level 3 Ballistic Vest:
Redwing boots (repainted for burnished leather look, tho after these pics, an unwise spray of dullcoate took the shine & deep colour away :/):
I kind of love the 2003 film, Bad Boys 2. Director Michael Bay (Transformers) was able to secure a $130 million budget and Will Smith – the biggest movie star on the planet at the time – to make a foul, outrageous, and wildly un-PC videogame come to life. Bay has gone on record saying that he was playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the Playstation at the time, and the movie clearly borrows from it as well as the likes of Jackie Chan, John Woo, and even Bay’s own movies. It’s the ultimate MTV overkill action movie.
Anyways, I’ve always wanted figures of supercops Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, played by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Dragon Models released a set around the time the movie came out, but it left a lot to be desired. I tried making figures in the past, but my skills weren’t up to the task. However, I gave weathering a try recently and it’s really opened up some doors for me. For military looking action figures, it just makes such a huge difference.
Martin Lawrence’s Heckler and Koch G36 assault rilfe is from a Japanese Gashapon set ordered from Hobby Link Japan. It was shiny black with metal highlights which made no sense as the real G36 assault rifle is a a matte black polymer. So I repainted (still trying to figure out how to do weapon weathering right!) it. I also drilled holes to insert Dragon optics & added a red lens on that.
Will Smith left leg drop down pouch was constructed by combining pieces from Dragon’s SDU figure and pouches from BBI’s Elite Force Terminate Scar figure.
Will Smith kneepads. 2nd time weathering kneepads. After doing the Martin Lawrence kneepads, I tried to tone it way down and I think they look better that way.
Poster shot! I couldn’t decide on which one to use. I think the all blue (bottom right) looks best, but orange fits the tropical, energetic theme and Miami style of the movies. Which one do you prefer?
John Woo’s “Hard Boiled” is one of my favourite flicks ever. The gunplay is insanely over-the-top stuff and still hasn’t been topped despite countless imitators from around the world. Just the INTRO action scene, a shootout in a Hong Kong teahouse, is better than the climaxes of most other action movies.
So, here is a figure of Chow Yun-Fat from that movie, dressed as he appears in the aforementioned teahouse scene. This figure happens to feature a lot of techniques I’m trying for the first time: Rabbit fur for the hair, Asian skintones, sewing of a complete article of clothing (the pants), and a lame attempt at weathering (the shirt).
I have to give special thanks to Alyasha; he brought the fur all the way from freaking China for me and wouldn’t accept anything in return. I really owe you one, dude.
Also thank you to:
* J Van Spronsen for opening my eyes to possibilities of fur applications.
* Dan Chung & his Crouching Tiger figure for reminding me that DML’s old Chow head has a lot of mileage left in it even among today’s modern super headsculpts.
* Rainbow Ave for posting his pants tutorial just at the right time. I’d still be trying to figure out how to sew the damn thing if it weren’t for his post.