When news of Jet Li’s supposed ill health due to hyperthyroidism surfaced online (published by numerous media outlets together with a shocking, unrecognizable photo of someone that looked like Li), fans were quick to react, showering the famous martial artist with messages of support. In an article in The Washington Post, Steven Chasman, Li’s manager, confirmed that the 55-year-old Chinese superstar does have hyperthyroidism, but it isn't life-threatening.
Phew! That’s good to hear, because actors like Jet Li don’t come around too often. His magnetic onscreen presence and ability to execute phenomenal action sequences have made him a silver screen legend in his own right. Watching him work through a battalion of baddies is like witnessing an elegant ballet, only blood and bruises are part of the inevitable outcome. Here we’ve listed down some of the fight scenes that have tempered his filmography, solidifying his status as one of the most badass leading men of his generation.
Okay, so you know you’re pretty much built for stardom when you’re asked to essay a role where the climax involves fighting yourself. In this science fiction epic, Li plays Gabriel Yulaw, a man who travels through the multiverse in search of his other selves, sucking the life force of the alternate-hims once they’ve been defeated. The final fight you’ll see below is classic Li put through the Hollywood machine: a dance to the death, choreographed in a hyper-stylized manner. One question, though: Why do the finales of these action movies always end in factory-like settings?
Director Zhang Yimou’s Chinese box office hit tells the tale of Nameless (Li), a master swordsman who shares his journeys to the king of Qin. In the colorful and visually arresting film, Nameless recounts three assassination attempts on his life, the most stunning of which is his encounter with Long Sky (Donnie Yen of Ip Man fame), a magical match that involves floating, wielding weapons, and a whole lot of tension.
Kiss of the Dragon
Under French director Luc Besson’s hand, Li was able to channel an endearing performance as a Chinese intelligence agent out to infiltrate an infamous heroin ring. As Liu Siu-jian, he was both earnest and destructive, a killing machine with a heart of gold. And hey, if you saw a mob man beating up Bridget Fonda, you’d definitely interfere too, right?
Romeo Must Die
Before RnB musician Aaliyah died in a tragic plane crash, she starred alongside Li in this early aughts action flick. It’s a revenge movie that involves a lot of gangsters, mainly getting their butts beaten to a pulp by the always electrifying Li.
In the geriatric action star extravaganza, Li faces one of Rocky’s foes in the ring: the very Swedish (and very muscular) Dolph Lundgren.