Corey Yuen

Corey Yuen is All Action

Corey Yuen and Jet Li in War in 2007

Corey Yuen [Corey Yuen Kwai and Yuen Kwai] was born Ying Gang-ming in Hong Kong, China on February 15, 1951. He is a Hong Kong action director, film director, producer and action choreographer. He was a member of the Peking Opera School’s China Drama Academy along with his friends Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Corey was also one of the Seven Little Fortunes. Corey Yuen, like other students of the China Drama Academy, adopted his master’s, Sifu Yu Jim Yuen, given name “Yuen” as his family name. In the 1970’s, during the “chop socky” era, Corey appeared as an extra in Hong Kong action films.

As an actor Corey appeared in three Hwang Jang Lee films: Secret Rivals 2 (1977) as Silver Fox’s henchman; The Invincible Armour (1977) as Assassin; and the film Dance of the Drunk Mantis (1979) as Rubber Legs’ student perhaps best known character.

In 1980s, Corey Yuen played Devil Disciple Leader in the 1983 film Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, with Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Mang Hoi. Corey Yuen played SWAT Team Member in the 1985 film Heart of the Dragon, with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. Corey Yuen directed and played Bad Egg in the 1986 film Righting Wrongs aka Above the Law, along with Yuen Biao, Melvin Wong, Cynthia Rothrock, Peter Cunningham and Siu-wong Fan. Corey Yuen played Judy Wu in 1987 film Eastern Condors along with Sammo Hung, Biao Yuen, Joyce Godenzi, Billy Chow, Siu-chung Mok, Yuen Woo-ping and Melvin Wong.

In 1990s, Corey Yuen directed and played Man in the Boat in the 1990 film She Shoots Straight, along with Joyce Godenzi, Sammo Hung and Yuen Wah. Corey Yuen directed and played Li Kwon Bon in 1993 film Fong Sai-yuk II with Jet Li. He directed and played Uncle Po in 1997 film Hero (not Jet Li’s 2002 Hero) alongside Yuen Biao and Takeshi Kaneshiro.

In 2010s, Yuen played Cao Cao’s General in the 2010 film Just Another Pandora’s Box with Ronald Cheng, Yuen Biao, Kai-man Tin, Siu-wong Fan and Wu Jing.

Corey Yuen became one of the top action directors both in Hong Kong and in the United States. He made his Hong Kong directorial debut in the 1982 film Ninja in the Dragon’s Den, with Hiroyuki Sanada, Conan Lee and Hwang Jang Lee. In June 1985, Yuen made his American directorial debut in 1986 film No Retreat, No Surrender. No Retreat, No Surrender was the film that debuted Jean-Claude Van Damme. Corey Yuen has worked with most of Hong Kong’s top stars at one time or another. He was instrumental in starting the careers of Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock in the 1985 film Yes, Madam. In 1990 he directed All for the Winner which launched Stephen Chow as a star. Corey Yuen directed Top Bet (1991) starring Anita Mui. He has also directed Jackie Chan with Sammo Hung in 1988 film Dragons Forever, and directed Anita Mui, Andy Lau and Aaron Kwok in Saviour of the Soul the same year.

In 1993, Corey Yuen and his friend, actor Jet Li, formed an alliance. He directed several of Li’s films, beginning with Fong Sai-yuk and Fong Sai-yuk II, and continuing through The Bodyguard from Beijing, The New Legend of Shaolin and My Father Is a Hero. Yuen also choreographed two of Jet Li’s films: The New Legend of Shaolin and High Risk.

In the 2000s, Corey Yuen directed DOA: Dead or Alive (2006) with appearances from characters of the game series including Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly), Christie Allen (Holly Valance), Kasumi (Devon Aoki), Ayane (Natassia Malthe) and Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter) and the former WCW, TNA and WWE wrestler Kevin Nash.

When Jet Li became a star in American theaters beginning with 1998 film Lethal Weapon 4, Corey Yuen’s action direction also gained recognition in the West. Yuen worked in the 2000 blockbuster X-Men as an action director, and Yuen would also choreograph the martial arts and action sequences in six of Jet Li’s other American films: Romeo Must Die (2000), Kiss of the Dragon (2001), The One (2001), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), War (2007), and The Expendables (2010).

Corey Yuen directed The Transporter and So Close, which were released in 2002. He did not to return to direct Transporter 2 (2005), but he was the fight choreographer and second unit director and his team of stuntmen and martial artists are featured in the film.

Corey Yuen’s style of action is not as distinct as that of other Hong Kong action directors like Yuen Woo-ping and Ching Siu-tung, but Yuen’s style is noted for its speed, creativity, and higher emphasis on offence. One distinguishing ability of Yuen’s is his ability to mix hand to hand combat and gun fighting, two styles not often seen together successfully in Hong Kong action films.

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