Experts in Action

Transnational Hong Kong–Style Stunt Work and Performance

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 49 illustrations Published: February 2021

Author: Lauren Steimer

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

Action movie stars ranging from Jackie Chan to lesser-known stunt women and men like Zoë Bell and Chad Stahelski stun their audiences with virtuosic martial arts displays, physical prowess, and complex fight sequences. Their performance styles originate from action movies that emerged in the industrial environment of 1980s Hong Kong. In Experts in Action Lauren Steimer examines how Hong Kong--influenced cinema aesthetics and stunt techniques have been taken up, imitated, and reinvented in other locations and production contexts in Hollywood, New Zealand, and Thailand. Foregrounding the transnational circulation of Hong Kong--influenced films, television shows, stars, choreographers, and stunt workers, she shows how stunt workers like Chan, Bell, and others combine techniques from martial arts, dance, Peking opera, and the history of movie and television stunting practices to create embodied performances that are both spectacular and, sometimes, rendered invisible. By describing the training, skills, and labor involved in stunt work as well as the location-dependent material conditions and regulations that impact it, Steimer illuminates the expertise of the workers whose labor is indispensable to some of the world's most popular movies.


Experts in Action is a rich, painstakingly researched work on the evolutions of global stunt acting as a mode of performance. It beautifully shifts conversations about expertise into the realms of fandom, without relinquishing the rigor of its mixed methods engaging production history, performance studies, and transnational media theory. There's nothing at all like it in other accounts of Hong Kong cinema, and its consideration of the craft of stunt techniques is matched by the craft and meticulousness of Lauren Steimer's prose.” — Karen Tongson, author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries

“With high ambition and conceptual creativity, Experts in Action is the first book on stunt work that takes its topic from the specialist margins of cinema and media studies and lobs it right at the heart of broad critical debate about transnationalism in culture. A breakthrough achievement.” — Meaghan Morris, author of Identity Anecdotes: Translation and Media Culture


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lauren Steimer is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and Media Arts at the University of South Carolina.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Experts in Action  1
1. Risky Business: Financial and Physical Risk in the Action Stardom of Jackie Chan  23
2. Hong Kong Action Cinema as a Mode in Thai Action Stardom: Tony Jaa and the New Stunting Star Model  56
3. A Hong Kong Reservoir for Xena: Communicative Translation and the Bodily Disposition of Stunting Star Zoë Bell  86
4. Hong Kong Action in Transit: The Postmillennial Stunt Craftwork of Chad Stahelski and Dayna Grant  121
Conclusion. Novice and Expert Performance—a Call to Action  162
Notes  175
Bibliography  199
Index  215
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1170-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1057-9