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)
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 :/):
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.