It never fails: When a hero wants to disappear, he goes west to the frontier. But when he loses his way, he goes east. East is where the swords are. And the Zen. And the magical gurus who do weird things to you for your own good.
The new Wolverine movie didn't screen by WW press deadlines, but apparently—like every other violent Westerner—Wolverine totally goes to Asia to find himself and then kick some ass.
In preparation for this momentarily completely unreviewable movie (look for a review at wweek.com later this week), we decided to bone up on the great cinematic fighting schools of the East.
Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
Location: Big ol' Chinese mountain.
Master: Pai Mei, big ol' Chinese asshole, angry beard flipper, master of the schoolyard taunt and genital-free cheap-shot artist.
Student: Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), future assassin and vengeful Bride.
Most ridiculous tasks: Punching a board for, like, a year. Enduring unending insults. Watching an old man eat.
Ultimate purpose: To kill people for money. That is, until Kiddo gets preggo.
Wisdom received: "Like all Yankee women, all you can do is order in restaurants and spend a man's money."
Location: Japanese countryside.
Master: Stoic, reclusive Senzo Tanaka, master of (a) the mighty mustache, (b) the unforgiving scowl and (c) the hill-country ninjutsu.
Student: Jean-Claude Van Damme as Frank Dux, mushmouth and future fighting champion.
Most ridiculous tasks: Serving tea blindfolded while fending off karate chops. Getting stretched out by ropes to show off awesome flexibility.
Ultimate purpose: To prove he is worthy of Japanese wisdom, despite being a ridiculous Belgian man with frosted hair.
Wisdom received: It is always a good time to do the splits. Sweatpants hotel time, rooftop yoga time, getting hit with bamboo time, nut-punching time, any time!
Batman Begins (2005)
Location: In the film, Bhutan. In reality, Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Iceland.
Master: Ra's al Ghul, the Demon's Head, half-immortal criminal bureaucrat.
Student: Troubled playboy Bruce Wayne (played by troubled actor Christian Bale).
Most ridiculous tasks: Find a rare blue flower from the eastern slopes and carry it to the top of a mountain. Then fight!
Ultimate purpose: To conquer fear itself.
Wisdom received: Training is nothing! The will is everything! The will to act!
The Karate Kid (2010, Jaden Smith edition)
Master: Jackie Chan, handyman.
Student: Will Smith's son, what's-his-name.
Most ridiculous tasks: Hang up the coat. Put it on. Take it off. Hang up the coat. Put it on. Take it off. Now you know kung fu.
Ultimate purpose: To beat up some 12-year-old kids. Because they totally deserve it.
Wisdom received: Adults playing children are apparently way less annoying than actual children.
Blind Fury (1989)
Location: Vietnamese countryside.
Master: It takes a village to make fun of a blind man while throwing fruit at him.
Student: Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer), a blinded Vietnam vet who wanders like Caine in Kung Fu.
Most ridiculous tasks: Apparently the sum total of Hauer's Vietnamese ninja training consists of blindly slicing fruit in midair while villagers throw fruit at his face. He would have been better off learning sonar from friendly dolphins.
Ultimate purpose: To become a blind samurai, return to America and protect a war buddy's son from the Mafia.
Wisdom received: Look out for that fruit!
SEE IT: The Wolverine is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Mill Plain, Lloyd Center, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, Division, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Roseway, St. Johns Twin, Oak Grove, City Center, Sandy.