This week on Hard N.O.C. Life, I’ll be interviewing our buddies Stephen and Patrick from the National Film Society. They just premiered their Kickstarted webseries Awesome Asian Bad Guys to packed houses last week during CAAMFest in San Francisco, and I was lucky enough to have them on to talk about the series. In addition to the NFS guys, I’ll also be speaking with Yuji Okumoto, aka Chozen from The Karate Kid II.

All this talk about Awesome Asian Bad Guys got me thinking about which iconic Asian villains are most beloved by the NOCs. So we assembled around the old roundtable and shared our own Awesome Asian Bad Guys.

RODRIGO: Different Karate Kid movie, so I don’t know if It counts, but Zhenwei Wang as Cheng was a bad ass in the 2010 reboot. I cheered for him. No joke.

NELSON: Bolo Yeung. His physique was imposing in Enter the Dragon, and he didn’t have to say a single word to convey badassery. He just cracked his neck and immediately struck fear into opponents.

BAO: Bolo said “Dah!” though!

ALICE: Imma gonna have to raise your Bolo Yeung and say Shih Kien’s Han from Enter the Dragon. That scene with the metal bear claw… That’s the definition of badassery! I also kinda like Harold Sakata in Goldfinger. That bowler hat was pretty cool.

NELSON: Just sharing a memory from my childhood. When I was about 4 or 5 years old in the early 70s, a rather large, intimidating man visited us with my uncle in San Francisco. They were visiting from Hawaii. They stopped off at our house for about 30 minutes just to say hi to my parents. I found out years later that my uncle’s friend was Harold Sakata. Of course, I had no idea who he was until I watched Goldfinger a few years later.

SHAWN S.: My vote is for The Fiendish Dr. Wu from Black Dynamite.

I imagine something profound should immediately pop in my head. But honestly, just say the words “kung-fu treachery” in your mind without giggling to yourself uncontrollably. See? Can’t do it. Dr. Wu is iconic of the glorious campiness of the best Asian villains. Everything about the character is so wrong, it’s right. Much in the same way Raymond and I wax poetic about Kurata’s “crab-style” in Heroes of the East aka Shaolin Challenges Ninja.

KEITH: Speaking of Heroes of the East, if you’re in New York City April 18-20, check out the “Old School Kung Fu Fest” playing at the Anthology Film Archives on 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue. The homie Jerry Ma designed the poster and curated an art show featuring pieces from Bernard Chang, John Jennings, Ken Knudtsen and more! Check out his blog to see everyone’s posters.

PATRICK: I was actually big fan of Byron Mann’s Silver Lion in The Man With The Iron Fists. I’m still looking to cosplay as him as soon as I can get a costumer to build that for me.

SHAWN S.: Crap… changing my answer. With all due respect to Roger Yuan (aka Dr. Wu), my all-time fave’s gotta be Hwang Jang Lee. Drunken Master, Dance of the Drunken Mantis, Snuff Bottle Connection. All win.

RODRIGO: What about the Shredder?

NELSON: You mean François Chau’s Shredder [from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze], right? Not William Fichtner.

RODRIGO: Right!

KEITH: I know he isn’t really the main villain in the movie, but I’ve long held this theory about Ken Watanabe in Batman Begins. See, conventional wisdom says that his Ra’s Al Ghul that we meet early in the film is just a decoy to deflect attention from Liam Neeson’s Henri Ducard, who we learn is the real Ra’s in the third act of the film. But I never bought it. My theory, the name Ra’s Al Ghul — literally, the Demon’s Head — was actually a title handed down for generations to the leader of the League of Shadows. So in actuality, Watanabe-Ra’s actually was the real Ra’s, and Ducard merely assumed the mantle when he survived Bruce’s firebombing of their temple.

Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated.

At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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15 thoughts on “NOCs of the Roundtable: Favorite Asian Bad Guys

  1. So the Nerds of Color, a group blog that discusses popular culture with a “culturally critical eye”, stocked a list of favorite Asian movie villains with martial artists and Fu Manchu wannabes?

    Is this serious? I honestly cannot tell if this is some commentary on Hollywood race stereotypes or simple indifference toward them.

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    1. You’ve got a point. But on the other hand, I can’t think of many Asian movie villains that aren’t martial artists. I guess maybe O’Ren Ishii from Kill Bill, but even she still dressed only in a kimono and sandals that would have been impossible to walk in, while wielding a katana. Not to mention Go-Go Yubari as a schoolgirl…

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  2. I believe, stereotypes are trumped by depth…
    Lucy Lui as O’Ren Ishii had it
    Shredder from TMNT 1 had it
    Johnny Wong from Hard Boiled had it too

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      1. I can’t remember all the Chinese and Japanese movies I watched years ago. Period films like “Battle of Red Cliff” will of course have martial artists baddies – with the exception of the original 47 Ronin films (Big Bad was a cowardly lord). But I do remember one Chinese thriller film where a selfish husband (played by Tony Leung Ka Fai) tried to murder his wife for the insurance money. No martial arts but he was definitely a scumbag. The 1979 Japanese film, “Vengeance is Mine” is about the murderer Iwao Enokizu, but it’s not a martial arts film. I think if people stick to certain genres they’ll just find the same thing repeated.

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      2. BernieB I can’t seem to reply to you so I don’t know if you’ll even see this, but I don’t think I’ve watched enough Chinese and Japanese movies to know. Thinking about it now, most of the ones I’ve watched were character driven so it was more of the character battling within themselves, and there wasn’t a real villain.

        But it makes sense that movies from those countries themselves would be more diverse in roles. But it makes me wonder about American movies.

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