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July 29, 2008


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Lim at least pays lip service to silent film fisticuffs: "There is, of course, a rich tradition of movie fights predating all these developments, going back to the broadly physical silent-era antics of Keaton and Chaplin."


Every time the topic of movie fist-fights comes up, I'm always hoping someone will bring up one of my favorites, from "Soldier in the Rain". It's not a great movie, but the bar fight between Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason on one side, and two MPs who had just been making fun of the fact that McQueen's dog died (not cool), is a straight-up classic. The drop-kick McQueen lays on one of the MPs is almost as thrilling as the motorcycle jump in "The Great Escape".

Mike Everleth

My favorite fight scene of all time is in The Godfather when Sonny beats the shit out of Carlo for whaling on Connie. I just love it when Sonny bites Carlo's fingers and whacks him on the head with the garbage can lid. Also, I miss those old-style roundhouse punches, several of which in this scene are clearly not even close to connecting.

Some interesting things from Lim's piece: 1) Chuck Norris' shoulder hair tufts are gross. 2) The set-up to The Matrix fight is a clear homage to Return of the Dragon. 3) I'm not a fan of the choppy fight scene either, but watched out of context and on a tiny YouTube screen, The Bourne Ultimatum clip is surprisingly easy to follow visually. I didn't feel that way in the theater.


I think Nolan has been taking a shitload of abuse where he shouldn't be. "Batman Begins"' fight editing was a mess, choppy, hard to follow, etc. "The Dark Knight" was much smoother and actually showed Christian Bale putting boot to ass. Yeah, it's not the apex of action cinema, but give the guy credit for improving!


"In a move that I find kind of staggering, the e-zine Slate has posted a film-related article that's not only entertaining and provocative, but erudite and spot-on."

I haven't read Slate in a while, but has it really gone that far downhill since the split from David Edelstein?

And I agree with dan about Batman Begins vs. Dark Knight; the latter might not be ideal but its fights are a huge improvement on the first film's.

Glenn Kenny

Movie man, just chalk it up to my penchant for dynamiting non-existent bridges...

c mason wells

My favorite all-time fight scene: the jailhouse fisticuffs between John Lurie and Tom Waits in DOWN BY LAW. The fight is incredible precisely because it's so unstylized; it represents one of the few times that a filmmaker has captured the sloppy, clumsy nature of real-life brawls. DGG nails some of this in THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, too.


I remember being really impressed with the fight between Ethan Hawke and two would-be rapists in TRAINING DAY. It gave a real sense of the effort of trying to take on 2 people at once, and the increasing physical toll that a prolonged fight takes on a person.


Wow, you know, I'm really on the outside when it comes to "Something Wild", as I've tried to watch it twice and found it compeltely uninvolving both times. I've always turned it off about halfway through, but I'm thinking I'll have to give it another chance.

And speaking of clumsy, believable brawls, I was quite impressed with the Wahlberg/Phoenix face-off in "The Yards". And as far as really uncomfortable fight scenes go, how about the stairwell fight in "Fingers"?

Ryland Walker Knight

My problem with the fight scenes in _TDK_ are pretty simple: I can follow what's happening, sure, but it looks clumsy instead of precise, which is what Batman is all about, right? He trained with Liam Neeson's gloom fest army of terror for a reason, right? I'm thinking of that early fight around the capture of the Scarecrow, and any other hand-to-hand fight, where the blocking is perfunctory and shot with rather banal long lenses in tight. For all the crap the _Bourne_ movies get, I think those action scenes, "ethnic" drumming aside, are way more dynamic and interesting. For one: Greengrass sets up the arena for his fights really well -- space is never a question, things are arranged by eyelines and movement really well -- and the speed of the action matches the speed of the editing, with room for certain choreography turns to play uninterrupted, like that flip out of the hand lock. Plus, in the clip Lim used, I always dig how he uses a book to fuck that fool up (for a second). And, I think that zoom out (from above) while "MATT DAMON" chokes the badguy is rather effective, and smart. All that said, it's a fine line for Greengrass. I think he did the right things in _Ultimatum_ that he did wrong in _Supremacy_, which is a hard argument to make, especially in a blog comment.

The point being: Nolan's choreography/staging isn't all that complex or interesting and it's shot in a kind of throwaway immediacy that, for all its impeccable timing (_TDK_ is edited pretty well), just feels rushed, not planned, not thought out. I'm sure somebody will argue that reflects what's happening with all the talk of chaos and all that bullcrap but I really don't see that. Now, with all _that_ said, I haven't seen the thing since opening weekend and not in IMAX so, while I doubt this, maybe I missed some crucial stuff... but, still, it's no _The Red and the White_ or, hell, _Something Wild_. (Or, you know, _The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence_.)

Tony Dayoub

I miss the sixties TV dramas' "obligatory fight scene" that we often saw on shows like "Bonanza" or "Star Trek". You know the ones... like when Capt. Kirk fought Khan in the engine room at the climax of the episode, "Space Seed".

The establishing shot would always be very wide, and a tad longer than it should have been. Long enough to clue you in that the participants' stunt doubles looked nothing like them. And then the occasional cut to tighter shots of the actual actors brawling.

Never got lost in those fights, but the phony looking stuntmen did take you out of the scene.

Then again Ed Norton did wish he could fight Shatner in "Fight Club".

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