10 Chopsocky Villains to Watch Right Now

As we look back on five years of amazing, ridiculous, and hilarious chopsocky film, it seemed prudent to take stock of the exceptional performances from the overlooked side of equation: the villains. Any action aficionado worth his or her salt knows that a hero is only as good as the villain opposing them, and the best martial arts b-movies tend to have memorable villain performances. Because listicles are appropriately journalistic and not divisive click-bait, here are ten villains to watch: actors who definitely got the memo, characters who fed the fires of conflict, and performers who kicked their way through our thoracic cavities and into our hearts.

10. Warbeck, Expect No Mercy
“In a role that was nearly offered to Gary Daniels, Wolf Larson is really entertaining as Warbeck. My general rule of thumb for martial arts b-movie villains is that they need to be presented as physical threats to the heroes, and their bad behavior needs to encompass more than just drug-dealing or being an old, rich, white guy. Not only does Warbeck get a climactic fight scene with one of the protagonists and provide a hammy YouTube-worthy rant, but his giant face is hung throughout the halls of the Academy campus as visual confirmation of his dickish megalomania.”

9. Craig Tanner, College Kickboxers
“While the mentor and lead characters are indeed likable, I found the film’s most memorable character to be Craig Tanner, who cements his spot in the pantheon of weirdly great American martial-arts villains. Despite a serious lack of fighting skills, Cohen owns the screen and proves that you don’t need to be a dumb skinhead to be a racist prick. His long, flowing mullet is among the most intense we’ve ever seen on film and were it not for his incredible overacting, it would easily be his best trait. While the White Tigers logo on his coat flaunts his gang affiliation, his fingerless leather gloves and leather pants with dangling chains scream ‘I just robbed the wardrobe rack on the set of Deadbeat at Dawn.’ Pairing such a unique look with an unforgettable performance is a huge factor for why this film ultimately works.”

8. Silverio, Only the Strong
“Few chopsocky villains have taken so much interest in accelerating urban decay in his city as the treacherous Silverio. A cross between Vega from Street Fighter II and pro wrestling’s Razor Ramon (even down to the colorful vests), he’s a despicable gang leader and capoeira badass without any redeemable qualities. Prieto didn’t do much after this other than a role in Street Law (we’ll cover it), but he’s terrific here. The character of Silverio is pretty much exactly what you want in a good b-movie chopsocky villain: he says ridiculous things, acts like a prick all the time, and dresses like a total asshole. Great hair, too!”

7. Yuri, No Retreat No Surrender 2
“The Soviet camp where Sulin is held captive is run by a brutal general named Yuri, played by Matthias Hues. In a display of cruelty, he challenges an injured prisoner to a fight and dangles the promise of freedom as incentive. After inflicting punishment in the form of internal bleeding, Yuri lets him limp towards the exit for about ten feet before shooting him in the leg and ass. He then throws him into a pit full of crocodiles. While laughing hysterically. Following this comical turn of events, he turns to Sulin and assures her that he won’t harm her. Hmmm.”

6. Loc Syn, Trained to Kill
“It’s impossible to discuss this film without highlighting Loc Syn, played by former Floridian kickboxing champion and Andy Sidaris favorite, Harold Diamond. A former military man by the name of Andrew Wilson, he went insane during his service, fell under the tutelage of Duran, and started calling himself Loc Syn for no reason other than it sounded cool and provided a 50% savings in syllables over his birth name. According to George, Syn’s mind ‘went south’ and he started killing for the pure fun of it. He’ll fill both hands with wakizashis while grinning madly, but would rather rip out your larynx barehanded or clench a shark tooth in his front teeth and slash your throat up close. To his credit, Loc Syn refuses to let his sociopathic tendencies dictate his sartorial choices. He wears an array of threads -- fedoras, steel-tipped cowboy boots, dark shades, and tank tops with designer blazers -- in letting his fashionable freak flag fly. That he has virtually no lines in the movie makes him all the more intimidating; he’s seated between diabetes and high-blood pressure at the table of silent killers.”

5. The Killer, Bloodmoon
“The nameless homicidal martial artist, played by Darren Shahlavi, is a practitioner of several fighting styles and as it turns out, many hobbies. Among other activities, we see him strolling through a park snapping photos and later, admiring the talent at the local nudie bar. But there’s one pastime that’s giving the NYPD absolute fits. Like, other than the murdering. It’s his robust set of advanced computer skills. He sends cryptic, taunting emails to the station. He livestreams a murder and sends them a link to watch. I would guess he’s pretty good at Quake too.”

4. Jason Slade, Honor and Glory
“John Miller really only had two big film roles in an otherwise brief career, but he should be thanking his lucky stars for the silver platter handed to him in Honor and Glory. He’s equipped with some of the best lines ever written for a martial arts villain. After Silk expresses his displeasure at Slade’s inclusion of an outside expert for their nuclear trigger deal, Slade coolly replies: ‘Do you know an atomic trigger from a Bulgarian dildo? Because I don't.’ Pressed both internally and externally to step down from his post during his company’s scandal, he repeatedly screams: ‘only death can retire Jason Slade!’ If you thought Warbeck from Expect No Mercy had the market cornered on megalomaniacal monologues in martial arts b-movies, think again. Slade reminds a second-guessing business associate that: ‘I have arrived at the top of the world. No man has control of more money. No man can fight me and live. No woman can share my bed and not be mine for life. I am like a god! I piss on you, from a great height.’ ”

3. Jacques Denard, American Kickboxer 1
“Despite his status as new champion, Denard doesn’t have a desire to be the best so much as he wants to be better than Quinn. He goes out of his way to antagonize him and his arrogant sense of entitlement is on full display throughout the film. He turns up to formal soirees in tank tops and ill-fitting pants, wears dark sunglasses during a court testimony, threatens kids seeking autographs, and even headbutts an innocent locker door. While all of this sufficiently characterizes Denard’s dickishness, Morris so thoroughly embraces the character’s traits that we can’t help but be entranced. Much of an audience’s hatred for a villain is set in motion by a single event but Denard is such a complete and utter asshole in everything he says and does that you legitimately want to see him beaten to death.”

2. Khan, King of the Kickboxers
“Why was she fleeing in the first place? Because an evil snuff film production company forced her into a hotel room rendezvous with Khan, their biggest star. Rather than subject herself to poorly acted martial artist sex, she smashed through a bathroom window and fled. This was apparently not an anomaly. It's widely-known that Khan has had a long streak of bad luck closing the deal. Even with sex slaves.”

1. Stingray, Undefeatable
“Stingray has mommy issues on steroids with a crystal meth chaser. The few flashbacks to his childhood allude to abandonment and while I’m not a psychiatrist, I’d guess this would lead to relationship trouble later in life. In the case of Stingray, I’m not sure how it led to a propensity for rape, murder, and eye-gouging, but hey -- different strokes, different folks. Don Niam really makes the Stingray character his own: he has a gloriously puffy mullet, plays scenes completely over the top, and is a decent enough martial artist to hold his own during fights.”

Who are your favorite villains, readers?

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