Jackie chan gets hurt. A lot.
December 17, 2014 1:38 AM   Subscribe

1. Start with a DISADVANTAGE
2. Use the ENVIRONMENT
3. Be CLEAR in your shots
4. Action & Reaction in the SAME frame
5. Do as many TAKES as necessary
6. Let the audience feel the RHYTHM
7. In editing, TWO good hits = ONE great hit
8. PAIN is humanizing
9. Earn your FINISH
The 9 Principles of Action Comedy: what makes Jackie Chan's action scenes work, by Tony Zhou. (Previously.)
posted by MartinWisse (81 comments total) 124 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fascinating stuff, but does the video seem to stop abruptly for everyone else?
posted by YAMWAK at 2:22 AM on December 17, 2014


Okay, I take it back, Vimeo messing things up. Apologies. Still a great explanation of Jackie Chan's greatness.
posted by YAMWAK at 2:23 AM on December 17, 2014


Tony Zhou should be teaching—if he isn't already. Brilliantly perceptive, a deep cinematographic thinker,1 and a great communicator.

1Oxford comma optional
posted by flippant at 2:49 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Tony Zhou is such a legend for doing these videos. HOW DOES HE NOTICE THESE THINGS AUGH
posted by Quilford at 2:50 AM on December 17, 2014


Great video, and Tony Zhou is new to me but I want to watch alllll of these.
posted by jameaterblues at 3:13 AM on December 17, 2014


And he uses Guardians of the Galaxy as a counter example of what Jackie doesn't do, which I found interesting.
posted by FJT at 3:16 AM on December 17, 2014


Ok, I'm sold.
As a big Buster Keaton fan I've always felt like I had missed out on something not having seen any non-American Jackie Chan movie. (Please don't judge.) I'm glad that Tony Zhou also makes a connection between those two because in my book both actors' willingness to break almost every bone in their body just to make people laugh is admirable dedication.

So.. my dear hive mind of MeFi please recommend me a few good Jackie Chan movies to watch over Christmas holidays! Thanks.
posted by bigendian at 3:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


10. Cast Jackie Chan
posted by fairmettle at 3:19 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not a fan of action movies except those with Jackie Chan in them, and this helps to explain why. For me his sense of timing, both action and comedic, is impeccable.

Keep in mind that Jackie turned 60 this year (hey, so did I). A couple of years ago he announced that he was retiring, then walked it back a bit to say he's still going to make movies, but will be cutting back on the stunts and taking care of his body more.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:24 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


bigendian Police Story is a classic of his oeuvre and the first one I saw back in the day
posted by threecheesetrees at 3:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


So.. my dear hive mind of MeFi please recommend me a few good Jackie Chan movies to watch over Christmas holidays! Thanks.

I'd suggest you start at the earliest movie you can find that casts him in a starring role and work your way forward chronologically. They're all great fun.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a kid I loved Armour of God II, especially for the amazing wind tunnel stunts. Can't say how often I saw that film...
posted by ts;dr at 3:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Watching Jackie Chan movies on Christmas is a laudible tradition! Christmas Chan will bless you.

As a sometimes-fan of martial arts films, I have really enjoyed Drunken Master (and its sequel, I'd say these are my favorite), Police Story, and Rumble in the Bronx. But there's value in nearly every film he's had a part in. I think he somehow gets the best out of every combination of people he works with. Heck, even that terrible one with Jennifer Love Hewitt had good bits.
posted by Mizu at 3:53 AM on December 17, 2014


Chan is also an acknowledged fan of Harold Lloyd -- there's one of his movies (I forget which) where he re-enacts the clock scene from Safety Last!

I've been vaguely disturbed, though, ever since I realized just how fond he is of the gag where he accidentally grabs a woman's chest and then looks apologetic about it. He does it to Elizabeth Peña in Rush Hour, but variations on the theme seem to pop up with alarming frequency in his other movies.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 4:07 AM on December 17, 2014


11. When you’re swinging, swing some more.
12. If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance
posted by kersplunk at 4:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]




I love this. Can we mail this to Nolan, Greengrass, McG, Brett Ratner, Snyder and all the other directors who can't seem to choreograph, film and/or edit an interesting fight scene to save their lives?

I find that I tune out during the fight scenes since they're all so boring and you can't tell what's going on.
posted by octothorpe at 5:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


@bigendian, I'll second the recommendation of the Police Story series (the third one was released in the US as Supercop and co-starred Michelle Yeoh!), and also recommend Project A.
posted by Gelatin at 5:02 AM on December 17, 2014


Brave hero on film, tool of a corrupt state in real life.
posted by Poldo at 5:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can we mail this to Nolan, Greengrass, McG, Brett Ratner, Snyder and all the other directors who can't seem to choreograph, film and/or edit an interesting fight scene to save their lives?

Yes please. Luc Besson is one of the few other directors who has been able to combine kinetic fluidity with clear rhythm in at least some of his movies. In contrast, the Hobbit movie I saw was a total muddle of weightless CGI and inert pacing, all meant to be exciting but lacking the warmth and weight of Jackie Chan's worst scene. The first Bourne Identity movie was one of the very few that used deliberately poorly-lit and jerkily-cut action scenes to good effect; most movies I've seen do that create incomprehension and boredom.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:22 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Luc Besson is one of the few other directors who has been able to combine kinetic fluidity with clear rhythm in at least some of his movies.

If he had half a brain he'd be dangerous.
posted by Wolof at 5:47 AM on December 17, 2014


The problems with Hobbit are pretty baffling given how well he did action comedy in one of his first movies.
posted by empath at 5:58 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


After seeing this a few days ago, I watched Who Am I for the first time in a decade. Still some great comedic action scenes, although the plot is confusing enough that I would just watch them on YouTube instead.
posted by smackfu at 6:11 AM on December 17, 2014


bigendian: Try "Police Story 3: Supercop", particularly if you'd prefer something contemporary rather than the more historical types of movies. It's set in the modern (well, 1992) world, and it also stars Michelle Yeoh being awesome. (She was also in a great non-Chan action comedy, "Wing Chun")
posted by rmd1023 at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Our first date, I took the then-future wife to see Rumble in the Bronx. I have not been allowed to pick a movie since. Everything worked out nicely though, since she grew to love Jackie Chan movies.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2014


I think Drunken Master 2 is his best movie in a walk, but I'm not a big fan of the English-language version, which goes under the title The Legend of Drunken Master and is the only one that's widely available.
posted by Mothlight at 6:18 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


The first Bourne Identity movie was one of the very few that used deliberately poorly-lit and jerkily-cut action scenes to good effect

If by good effect you mean "Make Matt Damon look like he can fight," then yes, I'll give this to you. I think the first Bourne is one of the worst examples of the jump-cut fight. It also breaks rule 7 religiously -- it jumps from winding up to reaction shot to make Damon look fast, but it just gives the fights no weight whatsoever.
posted by bfranklin at 6:21 AM on December 17, 2014


This is superb.
posted by Artw at 6:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first Bourne Identity movie was one of the very few that used deliberately poorly-lit and jerkily-cut action scenes to good effect


And it seems like every damn action movie since then has adopted this style. I really hate the influence it's had on modern action movies.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


You could make a lot of the same observations about dancing in movies. Directors like Vincente Minnelli or Robert Wise or even Bob Fosse knew to show you the whole room with whole humans dancing in it so you can tell what's going on and you know that Gene Kelly is really the person dancing there. Compare that to a modern director like Rob Marshall who cuts dance numbers up so badly that you have no idea where anyone is or even whose feet those are.
posted by octothorpe at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


He is not wrong.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:48 AM on December 17, 2014


Chan has said that this fight from Wheels On Meals is his favorite, which is interesting because it's a bit atypical of his work. There's still a little comedy in it, but it has a ferocity you don't often associate with Jackie Chan. Put another way, it's not a setpiece...it's a fight.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:05 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


The first Bourne Identity movie was one of the very few that used deliberately poorly-lit and jerkily-cut action scenes to good effect


And it seems like every damn action movie since then has adopted this style. I really hate the influence it's had on modern action movies.


Can't blame Bourne Identity. Gladiator was the first movie I can remember with that sort of herky-jerky jump cut fight style, to the point where I couldn't tell who was getting cut or who was doing the cutting. Downhill ever since, although the Bourne Supremacy really took it to new heights. The camera never stayed still in that movie, even during quiet talking scenes. Ugh.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ditto Gladiator. It was the first time I couldn't tell what the hell was happening, and I've never been able to tell in any movie since.
posted by etc. at 7:16 AM on December 17, 2014


The first Bourne Identity movie was one of the very few that used deliberately poorly-lit and jerkily-cut action scenes to good effect; most movies I've seen do that create incomprehension and boredom.

I wish Doug Liman had done all three. I like them all, but the second one really suffers from the issue you mention. I always think of MST3K, "Action sequences filmed in Confuso-Vision™!"
posted by yerfatma at 7:19 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


In addition to herky-jerky camera movements, Gladiator also suffers from that incredibly dated "strobe light slow-mo" video effect that made every battle scene from an early 2000s film look like a Pat Benatar video. For example.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2014


Another datapoint for this practice of cutting between shots on impact is the over use of it by the WWE. The interesting twist there is that they do much of their broadcasting live, so I often wonder what it's like to be the guy pushing the button to switch cameras when every. single. blow. is landed. The result is often a change in camera angle just before or after the blow has landed, which is even more disorienting than when they manage to time it up just right on impact.
posted by jermsplan at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2014


empath: "The problems with Hobbit are pretty baffling given how well he did action comedy in one of his first movies."

Though there you can see things like the teeter totter moment, which is cut up into a series of disconnected actions like how Zhou contrasts Jackie Chan's Hong Kong and Hollywood films. Yeah, the reason the stunt is built in editing is because that actor is not as capable a stunt performer as Jackie Chan. (Few people are!) And also Jackson has to cover for switching out puppets.



I can also see the reasoning behind the kick in the face example from Guardians of the Galaxy. Again, maybe they didn't have someone as willing and able as Jackie Chan to take a kick directly to the face. Plus you don't want to mess up the alien makeup and have to spend hours fixing it up. So you think "how can I fake it?"

And the routine they've come to for faking it is to combine the shot that looks like it's about to hit with the shot that looks like it's following the hit, try to get people to assume they saw the hit. Plus, and this is a part Zhou skips over, it has the sound of a hit.

In Matthias Stork's video on "Chaos Cinema" he argues that the sound design has been doing more work to convey what is happening when the visuals are unclear.



People who like this video might also like David Bordwell's comparison of a fight scene in Police Story with one in Tomorrow Never Dies.
posted by RobotHero at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wish Doug Liman had done all three.

I was surprised when I heard that Damon had gone to bat so hard for Greengrass. The fight in the Paris apartment in the first movie was very well done, I thought. It kept you oriented considering it also had the intent of showing that Bourne was fighting all on reflex.

Greengrass tries to confuse you. Like an uncle spinning you around on the lawn.

I enjoy II, and III as well. II because Cox is really good, and III, almost like it's an SCTV skit based on the Bournes. Seriously, you almost (hell, you do) laugh at the hand held jerky cam and the teal. Teal everywhere!
posted by Trochanter at 7:49 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seconding the Legend of Drunken Master as the best JC movie. Police Story is also a gem- and from an era where Jackie Chan was just reckless and trying to prove that he and his team were the best and craziest out there.

They had a showing here in Toronto a couple years ago at the TIFF theatre and JC was actually present to do a little interview beforehand. I couldn't believe I was seeing the man himself- and the ticket was the usual $12! He told stories of the movie's stunts and how a few went brutally wrong. It was a different experience watching the movie when you know that the actors weren't acting- they were really hurt.

So many great older movies to check out. I love Shaolin Wooden Men. Fearless Hyena is absurd and awesome. You used to be able to buy them at department stores for a few bucks. I'm not sure where to get them any more.
posted by beau jackson at 7:54 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


There was a recent You Must Remember This on Bruce Lee which contrasts Lee and Fred Astaire in terms of editing. Astaire was all about the long continuous shot the show he was actually doing things, Lee is fine with cuts and close ups to emphasize what he's doing.
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


In addition to herky-jerky camera movements, Gladiator also suffers from that incredibly dated "strobe light slow-mo" video effect that made every battle scene from an early 2000s film look like a Pat Benatar video.

Oh, I had forgotten about that, but yes. Overdone.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2014


It was a different experience watching the movie when you know that the actors weren't acting- they were really hurt.

Jackie's films (the H.K. ones, at least) are well-known for including bloopers/outtakes/stunts gone wrong under the closing credits. The faint-of-heart may want to avoid these, especially the Armour of God outtakes, which shows him taking a fall that almost killed him.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


One of the things that always appeals to me in Jackie Chan fights is that he is always looks like he's teetering on the brink of total disaster. Intellectually, I know that everything has been carefully choreographed and planned, but it still looks like he's in the middle of doing the Lucille Ball Candy Factory scene while on a tightrope and being tickled.
posted by plinth at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


One more vote for Drunken Master and Police Story as great places to start with Chan. Police Story has some questionable gender role stuff, but my married lesbian friends found that the funniest part, so ymmv.

Tony Zhou continues to be the greatest thing on the internet. His point about the editing in Guardians, and the curious, specific rhythms of Chan's fights, is right on.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a very good example of why so many of Jackie's American movies seem so mediocre in comparison to his HK work. He's still incredibly funny because he's a natural physical comic but the action is generally pretty poor.

The same problem seem to happen in regards to Jet Li's American work, American directors are so used to having to sell mediocre fighters as bad asses that they need to use all sorts of editing gimmicks that most HK directors don't have to use.

One thing that really seems to stand out in regards to the true masters of the Martial Arts films is that many Asian directors and actors are not shy about showing the wide-angle scene rather than sticking in a zillion jump-cuts. Zoom in only when really necessary. This contrast between action styles really stands out because many of the HK scenes just seem so much bigger than modern American films.
posted by vuron at 8:35 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


The accidental pervert (includes Jackie Chan examples)

For some reason I thought this was going to include the scene in Shanghai Noon where he and Owen Wilson end up naked in a washtub together, but then I guess the accidental pervert would be me.

(Say what you will about his American movies, he was at least still game for the ridiculous.)
posted by psoas at 8:45 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes please. Luc Besson is one of the few other directors who has been able to combine kinetic fluidity with clear rhythm in at least some of his movies.

+Jeunet & Caro

City of Lost Children
Delicatessen
Amélie
posted by ...possums at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can also see the reasoning behind the kick in the face example from Guardians of the Galaxy.

#5 "Do as Many Takes as Necessary" addresses this. Jackie's a perfectionist and spends the time to get a take right, no matter how many times. American movies, either due to time or more likely money (not in terms of lacking money, but more in the astronomical amounts spent), don't and use cuts to cut corners.
posted by FJT at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2014


10. Hammy camera mugging.

The fight in the Paris apartment in the first movie was very well done, I thought.

I think what made it work is that it had a narrative line. Most American "action" films don't seem to know what to do in action scenes at all. They barely know how to put anything beyond visual sensation into an action/fight scene, much less how to build one thing on top of another, which is usually what you need to tell jokes. They're also horrible about use of space, or use of anything really. They're just desperately unimaginative when it comes to action.

You get stuff like the boring fights in the batman where characters tromp around saying stuff and occasionally doing some MMA moves and grunting.

The last good comedy fight scene I've seen in an American movie is the bathroom fight scene from Jack Reacher. You don't really have to do all the Jackie Chan steps to make a good action or action/comedy scene. It's not really that fucking difficult.
posted by fleacircus at 9:07 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jackie Chan + Benny the Jet = awesome every time
posted by asfuller at 9:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


10. Hammy camera mugging.

Too bad that someone who claims to have studied Lloyd and Keaton never learned how well dead pan works against big action. Lee knew it.
posted by Trochanter at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2014


Did someone mention French apartment fight scene?
posted by plinth at 9:34 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Action movies used to be good in the USA too. But that was mostly when it was Dirty Harry or Rambo or Bronson or Commando straight up cold blooded blasting real humans with a machine gun. By "good" I mean "wow" obviously. The price of conscience.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:37 AM on December 17, 2014


there goes went my morning.
posted by rebent at 9:37 AM on December 17, 2014


I wonder how much of the difference is down to how screenplays get written in Hong Kong vs Hollywood.

Hollywood is very much about Story and Character, and screenplays don't tend to be written or directed by someone who is, (and I say this not to denigrate) essentially a stuntman first and an actor second.

For Jackie chan, the fight scene is the whole reason the movie exists. The characters are in the movie solely to bring depth to the fight scenes, whereas in Hollywood movie, action is there to reveal character. Hollywood directors care about beats, getting from point a to b to c in the story, and they shoot action sequences to reveal information or to turn the plot. In Hong Kong movies, they'll twist or ignore the plot to produce the necessary fight scene.

Kung Fu movies are closer to musicals in form than they are to Hollywood action movies. Which is why even Bollywood does action movies better than Hollywood does these days.
posted by empath at 10:05 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


The final fight in Drunken Master 2 is just flat-out astonishing.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:05 AM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


--whereas in Hollywood movie, action is there to reveal character.
--to reveal information or to turn the plot


Lately, I view them more like scenes in a Gene Kelly movie. "Gotta DAAAANCE!"

edit: oops totally restated your point. But there's a creep of this into Hollywood for sure.
posted by Trochanter at 10:15 AM on December 17, 2014


The final fight in Gorgeous is one of my favorites. (The movie itself has an incredibly bizarre plot. I'd recommend watching it just for the fantastic fight scenes, though.) Jackie's opponent is a member of his personal stunt team, and allows for some really great fight choreography, presumably since he doesn't need to worry at all about cutting away for a stuntman replacement.

While I understand the hate for the Bourne-style action sequences, I thought the first movie actually does a good job at shooting the action cleanly. Unlike many modern action films, I can follow what's going on in the apartment fight fairly easily.
posted by kejadlen at 10:37 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'll add my recommendation to watch every one of Tony's "Every Frame a Painting" analyses - utterly brilliant.
posted by twsf at 10:58 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


If anyone seeing this has not had the good fortune to watch Jackie Chan at his best, watch this top 10 reel. (Oh my god, #5 ...)

(He's also a pretty charming singer. Seriously, he's just the best in every way.)
posted by jbickers at 12:05 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot of what is going on here is a tribute to the back and forth between Chan and Sammo Hung. Hung is a genius and in my opinion at least partially responsible for the best Chan films. Wheel On Meals is used in this video a lot, and is totally worth tracking down. Hung's movie Eastern Condors is masterful and also worth watching.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:55 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


almost like it's an SCTV skit based on the Bournes

When Jason Bourne does the "How do I know what you're doing when we're talking on the phone? BECAUSE I AM RIGHT BEHIND YOU!" thing in the second and third movies, all viewers in our home are required to shout, "You got Bourned!"
posted by yerfatma at 1:31 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


This was great! Thanks for the post.

There was a great beer commercial in Japan that featured a normal guy, a Jackie Chan fan(atic), whose dream was to act with his hero in a kung-fu movie. It was funny because the guy, Ishida, had concrete ideas in his mind about what he wanted this movie to be like (he rattles them off in the beginning of the video I linked to). I could only find this on YouTube without English subtitles but I think Mr. Ishida's excitement shines through. It's pretty great. Complete with bloopers in the end! Lucky, lucky guy.
posted by misozaki at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder how much of the difference is down to how screenplays get written in Hong Kong vs Hollywood.

#5 "Do as Many Takes as Necessary" addresses this. Jackie's a perfectionist and spends the time to get a take right, no matter how many times. American movies, either due to time or more likely money (not in terms of lacking money, but more in the astronomical amounts spent), don't and use cuts to cut corners.

I'm like 99% sure I have seen or read a variety of interviews with Jackie, Jet Li, and Chow Yun-fat where they have talked about the sort of "culture shock" they encountered when they first began shooting movies in the U.S. and realized how little time Hollywood spends shooting action or fight scenes, compared to what they were used to in the Hong Kong film industry.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:52 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


While I will agree with almost every single thing that Tony Zhou says in that video, my one little disagreement is with the argument that modern movies "look like a bunch of people flailing around, instead of a bunch of people getting hurt" (with the implication that that's different to how old Jackie Chan fights looked). I don't think, at all, that the kicks and punches in old Jackie Chan movies look painful. Sure, there are lots of wince-inducing scenes in Jackie Chan fights, but they're all "getting hit with ladders" and "falling on back from 2 story windows" and things like that. But the kicks and the punches look like artful, painless flailing. I think part of that is the sound effects, and part of it is that the rhythm of punches and kicks is so fast that every attack ends out looking like a jab, or almost a feint. Plus, I think there is a lot of very conscious insertion of flailing in Jackie Chan fights. That's part of him being the underdog in most movies; he can't be the badass with perfectly accurate, perfectly precise strikes and blocks. He has to flail and yet somehow do amazing stuff at the same time. For the most part, the parts of old Jackie Chan fights which do not involve props or the actual set look precisely like people flailing around instead of getting hurt.

Mind you, none of that is a complaint. If memory serves me, at the start of Steven Seagal's rise to fame, before he became slow and healthy-at-any-size, his selling point was that unlike other martial artists, his fight scenes looked painful. But I'd rather watch a classic Jackie Chan fight than a classic Steven Seagal fight any day, because I watch for stunning choreography and physicality and "holy-shit-did-you-see-that?!", not for pain.
posted by Bugbread at 4:09 PM on December 17, 2014


People who like this video might also like David Bordwell's comparison of a fight scene in Police Story with one in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Bordwell's blog is great; it has a ton of frame-by-frame analyses like that comparing the way different directors shoot action scenes. He's got a thing or two to say about Nolan, for example (previously). I'd also recommend his book, Planet Hong Kong, for those who are interested in the subject of Hong Kong movie editing.

Can't blame Bourne Identity. Gladiator was the first movie I can remember with that sort of herky-jerky jump cut fight style, to the point where I couldn't tell who was getting cut or who was doing the cutting.

Gladiator came after Saving Private Ryan, which also used the shutter effect mentioned elsewhere in the thread, as well as the hand-held documentary-style shaky cam. I'd consider that film to have been the likely culprit for popularizing that style. Of course, if you really want to go back, we have to at least mention Kubrick with Doctor Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket.

A lot of directors seem to believe that "real" fights should always be chaotic and therefore must always be depicted in the shaky/fast-cutting way. Others are just aping the surface style of better directors, who used specific effects for specific reasons on specific movies. Spielberg didn't use the Saving Private Ryan style on Raiders of the Lost Ark, after all, nor did Kubrick film Paths of Glory's battle scenes the way he did Full Metal Jacket's.
posted by hyperbolic at 4:12 PM on December 17, 2014


Oh, and: I'm glad Ridley Scott didn't film the fight scenes in The Duellists the way he did in Gladiator.
posted by hyperbolic at 4:14 PM on December 17, 2014


Possibly. SPR didn't have hand to hand combat, though, and I have never had much trouble following its action, not even the chaotic opening battle scene.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:46 PM on December 17, 2014


A lot of directors seem to believe that "real" fights should always be chaotic and therefore must always be depicted in the shaky/fast-cutting way.

Well, there are other approaches to bring structure to chaos.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:55 PM on December 17, 2014


The commentary on how the fighters in modern American action/martial arts movies are tremendously skilled and the directors … aren't, mostly (around 8:10), is well timed given the recent thread about franchises etc.
posted by kenko at 5:03 PM on December 17, 2014


A lot of directors seem to believe that "real" fights should always be chaotic and therefore must always be depicted in the shaky/fast-cutting way.

"What we're depicting is chaotic and fast, so we should depict it chaotically and fast" is, of course, fallacious.

I'm not going to say that the Astaire approach ("either I dance or the camera dances") is always right, but it's certainly got a lot to be said for it.
posted by kenko at 5:24 PM on December 17, 2014


Huh just saw Artw mention Lee vs. Astaire upthread.
posted by kenko at 5:32 PM on December 17, 2014


What made The Bourne Identity fight scenes great was that they were much more realistic than most fight scenes Hollywood had filmed at that point.

There was a recent You Must Remember This on Bruce Lee which contrasts Lee and Fred Astaire in terms of editing. Astaire was all about the long continuous shot the show he was actually doing things, Lee is fine with cuts and close ups to emphasize what he's doing.

Lee was a huge fan of the Japanese Samurai movies and his fight scenes often mimic them. This is quite prominent in the written/directed/starring Lee film Way of the Dragon.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:37 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only reason anyone should watch Drunken Master is if they are trying to watch Yuen Woo-Ping's early stuff. And if you are watching that stuff then you would realize it's just a remake of the far superior film Snake in Eagle's Shadow. Consider the major difference being Chan's character in Drunken Master is a huge asshole who basically fucks with with everyone else while farting and picking his nose. If you do end up watching the early series of Ping's films, I always enjoy The Magnificent Butcher with Sammo Hung. Chan's Shaolin Wooden Men & Half a Loaf of Kung Fu are pretty great.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:11 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


What made The Bourne Identity fight scenes great was that they were much more realistic than most fight scenes Hollywood had filmed at that point.

I was thinking about your comment and I don't think it makes sense that one projected 2D light image is more "realistic" than another. There is nothing real about film. It's all about stylistic conventions and they are all equally artificial.

But then, I thought you were onto something, almost accidentally.

The reason I am driving a car with a manual transmission is that I saw the car chase in The Bourne Identity and I thought that if he can drive that rusty old Mini Cooper like a maniac, well I can jam through the gears of a modern stickshift Honda too. And there's your answer. Chan said he was appalled at how little care American directors spent planning and filming fight scenes. Well of course. They spent all their effort on carefully planned car chases.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:34 PM on December 17, 2014


Chan has said that this fight from Wheels On Meals is his favorite, which is interesting because it's a bit atypical of his work. There's still a little comedy in it, but it has a ferocity you don't often associate with Jackie Chan

John Cusack killed that dude with a pen.

I can follow what's going on in the apartment fight fairly easily.

That dude? Also brought down by a pen. Moral: always carry a pen.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


PAIN is humanizing

Exemplified in Die Hard, increasingly forgotten in the sequels.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:09 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about your comment and I don't think it makes sense that one projected 2D light image is more "realistic" than another. There is nothing real about film. It's all about stylistic conventions and they are all equally artificial.

You mean, like, movies... aren't real?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:50 PM on December 17, 2014



Dragons Forever.

Superb three-way slapstick with Sammo and Biao Yuen.
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:45 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oooh, Dragons Forever. Great movie.

Gladiator came after Saving Private Ryan, which also used the shutter effect mentioned elsewhere in the thread,

My first memory of that was the final fight in Lethal Weapon. Of course put together because neither actor was particularly trained in hand to hand. There's probably an antecedent to that too.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:33 PM on December 18, 2014


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