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Far East, far out of mainstream Hollywood

By Nick Nunziata
CNN Headline News

Jet Li in 2001's "Kiss of the Dragon."
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(CNN) -- Why doesn't anyone know how to engineer the successful transition of the finest Asian film exports? Though a few scattered blockbusters make their way to the fore, Hollywood still hasn't been able to truly use the amazing palette of potential talents like Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, John Woo, Jackie Chan and their ilk.

Some would say that Chan is the exception, but peel away the films he made with Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson and you still have a man who is a once in a lifetime talent in his native continent but still a fringe dweller on ours. If you bring up "The Cannonball Run," I'll probably cry.

Before "Lethal Weapon 4" put him on the largest stage possible, Jet Li had already secured an amazing resume and he carried enough mystique to make him the next Bruce Lee in the eyes of many, a martial artist/actor who sells tickets. When given his starring vehicles, the actor tried his hardest but was lost in a sea of polish and flash that drew attention away from the man's God given speed and agility. Though I harbor a soft spot for his "Kiss of the Dragon," Li still remains a cipher stateside.

John Woo's film have grossed hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars and he gets his share of high-profile directorial gigs, but many of his longtime fans still wonder when he'll deliver another film like his classics "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer." Too often, the director has been unable to exercise the muscles that made him such an international brand name.

Chow Yun Fat is one of the most charismatic actors in the world today, a fact that all too few people realize. Even in the monumental success of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Fat hasn't stepped firmly into the "A-List" where many less talented and less versatile performers unleash clunker after clunker with no repercussions.

It's no surprise that Hollywood hasn't been able to find a way to make these people the next Spielberg or Cruise or Hanks as those spots are already taken. What is surprising is the gold mine of talent right under the collective noses of the deal-making faction of the business.

While the film industry is content to remake Asian films that are perfectly fine in their original form ["The Ring," "The Eye"], so few of the true engines of that film community are wasted in buddy flicks, second-rate action films, and for some, oblivion.

It's unfair to suggest there's a racial bias and too narrow-minded to think that the studios don't see the potential. I just think that perhaps a few brave souls need to not worry about shoehorning a John Woo into an American chassis, but rather let the man run free with that plentiful Hollywood coin. Tired of the same old generic police thrillers we've been subjected to, the ones built around some gimmick like a fancy new special effects technique or the hint of celebrity skin?

Let these horses run free.


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