Many people know Mark Dacascos as the president of Food Network’s Iron Chef Americaa role he’s reprising this week as Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend is coming to Netflix. But Dacascos is also one of the best screen fighters we’ve ever had the good fortune to see gracing our screens, delivering quintessential action performances from the ’90s and beyond that remain remarkable to this day.
Dacascos’ unique combination of charm and skill, coupled with his easy-going demeanor, set him apart from other martial arts stars of his era, such as the far more intense Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme. Although he never had the chance to be a big celebrity like these other two did, he is seeing a wonderful little career resurgence recently, playing the main villain in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellumvoicing a lead role in the solid Batman animated film Batman: Dragon’s Souland would have joined the cast from Cinemax’s excellent martial arts TV show Warrior for its third season.
Dacascos was also one of the best interviews in Scott Adkins’ excellent Art of Action interview series, delving into his life and career. Well worth your time.
While some of his best films (including the capoeira drama only the strong and live adaptation of free man crying) aren’t currently available to watch at home, these three are, and they all reign supreme while providing terrific displays of Dacascos’ talents.
It’s my favorite of the Dacascos movies, and it made our list of our favorite martial arts movies you can watch at home. In Conduct, Dacascos plays a superhuman on the run from a group of deadly assassins. His laid-back charm, good looks, and formidable martial arts skills suit the role of a bionic man. Along the way, he teams up with an unlucky songwriter (Kadeem Hardison) and a motel (a very charming Brittany Murphy, in a lead role). —piss people off
Conduct is available to stream for free with ads on Vudu, Tubi and Pluto TV.
brotherhood of the wolf
Dacascos stars alongside Samuel Le Bihan in Christophe Gans’ 2001 martial arts-action-horror period film brotherhood of the wolf like Mani, the formidable and always faithful Iroquois companion of Sir Grégoire de Fronsac, knight and royal naturalist of King Louis XV. When the province of Gévaudan is besieged by a mysterious series of murders perpetrated by an unknown creature, Fronsac and Mani are sent to investigate. What they uncover is a plot that not only threatens the townspeople, but a plot that could overthrow the French monarchy if not stopped.
Mani of Dacascos is a noble warrior of few words and quick actions, the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to face (and blow for blow) a gang of sneaky fighters or a horrible armored monster. Seriously, this guy could have given the Predator a hard time. If you like sword duels, martial arts fight scenes, tricorns and Monica Bellucci (’nuff said), brotherhood of the wolf is a must-have installment in the Dacascos best performance canon. —Toussaint Egan
brotherhood of the wolf is available to stream on Shudder.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Dacascos was not originally planned to be the main villain of this film. According to his interview with Adkins (link above), he was working with famed Shakespeare teacher Patsy Rodenburg when director Chad Stahelski asked him if he’d be up for a guest appearance in the new John Wick movie, possibly starring be a line of dialogue and a short fight. Dacascos agreed, and when the actor originally slated to play the villain dropped the role, suddenly our guy was in line for a much meatier role.
The Wick series redefined modern action in many ways, and the third installment is the most martial arts-heavy of the bunch. It’s a change for the series that suits Dacascos well – he plays Zero, an assassin hunting Wick, and has a showstopper of a final fight scene on a glass-filled floor. This scene took three to four weeks to shoot, Dacascos estimated, and he said he nearly walked into one of those panes about “half a dozen times.” —PV
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is available for rent on Amazon, Apple and Vudu.