::Literate Blather::
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Elegant Violence

7 Fight Scenes That Flow Like Poetry

Most sensible people abhor violence in real life. Yet movie violence – when choreographed correctly – can be an adrenaline surging, awe-inspiring moment in a film. These brutal moments – murders, shootings, and maiming – can become poetic and make us ponder the magnetic attraction of violence.

These are the cinematic moments when the stark realities of how fragile – how mortal we all are – come to fruition. Yet at the same time a well plotted fight scene can fill us with life. They can remind us of the poetry of motion – and the elegance of quick brutality.

Besides, good fight scenes kick ass.

Here are 7 fight scenes that DaRK PaRTY thinks fits into the category of Elegant Violence.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Director: Michael Mann

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig and Wes Studi

Plot Synopsis: Three frontier men – two Indians and a white man raised by Indians – protect two British sisters from the French during the French and Indian War in New York State. Based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper.

Set-up: The last battle scene is a powerful – and poetic – piece of violent filmmaking. The emotion is palpable as Chingachgook rashly runs after a rogue band of Mohawks that have kidnapped Alice, the woman he loves. His father, Uncas, and step-brother, Hawkeye, race after him. With glorious bagpipe music in the background, Chingachgook battles through the Mohawks until he is left with the leader, Magua. During the fight and Chingachgook is stabbed badly. He looks across at Alice and both of them know all is lost. The passion – and the sadness – ripples off the screen. Chingachgook fights on bravely, but ends being slain and tossed off a cliff to his death. Rather than remain with her captors, Alice jumps to her death after him. If you’re not crying at this point – you need a heart transplant.

The Poetic Moment: Uncas, filled with grief, charges into the scene as Hawkeye protect him with musket shots. Uncas runs up to the confident and cold Magua who turns to face him with knife and tomahawk waiting. Uncas dives into a forward roll, comes up in full attack, and quickly, skillfully, and rams his war club into Magua’s back. Magua tries to recover and turn, but Uncas snaps his arm with another brutal blow. A third breaks his ribs and a fourth caves in Magua’s shoulder. The disbelief fills Magua’s face as Uncas stares at him and then – after a long pause – Uncas kills him (see video below).

One Word Descriptor: Passion

The Matrix (1999)

Director: Andy and Larry Wachowski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

Plot Synopsis: A computer hacker joins a group of rebels to discover that his world is a prison. The “real” world has been taken over by machines and a small group of survivors are working to free the others from slavery.

Set-up: The Matrix is dedicated to the concept of elegant violence -- so there are many scenes that fit the bill. But nothing quite hits the mark like the fight between Trinity and a group of police officers that opens the film.

The Poetic Moment: Armed police officers invade an abandoned tenement and surround a leather-clad woman at a computer console. Flashlights bob against her back and Trinity lifts her arms. Meanwhile outside, three agents wearing sunglass show up and chastise the lieutenant for not waiting for them. With a smirk, the lieutenant says he doubts a woman will give his two teams much of a problem. “Lieutenant,” Agent Smith says, “you’re men are already dead. The scene shifts back into the tenement and Trinity kicks into a slow-motion hyper drive. It’s a maelstrom of violence as Trinity single-handedly disarms and kills the police officers with gravity defying martial arts move. When the dust settles, the viewer realizes he’s entered into a new realm poetic violence.

One Word Descriptor: Whoa!

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Director: Christophe Gans

Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci and Mark Dacascos

Plot Synopsis: In 18th century France, a naturalist Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend, Mani, investigate a series of murders that may or may not be the work of a werewolf. The pair stumbles upon an underground cult of rebels who want to overthrow the king. The cult members use a lion clad in primitive armor as their tool of destruction. They kill Mani and the naturalist seeks his revenge on them.

Set-up: Chevalier penetrates the underground lair of the cult wearing Indian make-up and armed with two short swords.

The Poetic Moment: Enraged by the murder of his friend, Chevalier systematically makes his way through the cult’s lair and kills everyone who gets in his way. The violence is quick and ferocious – but as practiced and skilled. As viewers, we begin to realize that Chevalier may be deadlier than the friend he is avenging. As he dispatches, cult member after cult member, the scene ends in with the confrontation with the twisted madman at the head of the cult.

One Word Descriptor: Vehement

Man on Fire (2004)

Director: Tony Scott

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke

Plot Synopsis: A burnt-out CIA assassin with a drinking problem named Creasy (played by Denzel Washington) ends up in Mexico City as a bodyguard to a rich Mexican and his American wife and child. He forms a reluctant bond with the little girl so when a group of gangsters kidnap her and leave him for dead – he hunts them down so he can rescue her.

Step-Up: Creasy hunts down one of the kidnappers and drives the man to a deserted cliff overlooking Mexico City. He duct tapes the man’s hands to the steering wheel with his fingers standing up and tells the kidnapper he’s going to cut off one finger at a time and then use the car lighter to stop the bleeding.

The Poetic Moment: The cat and mouse game between Creasy and the kidnapper is terrible to behold. It begins to dawn on the kidnapper and the movie viewer at the same time that Creasy isn’t just a tough guy – but a very, very bad man. The torture is tough to witness, but director adds elements of speeded up filming and grainy footage as a twanging guitar plucks in the background. It’s terribly violent – but it has a slickness that makes it difficult not to admire. Even at the end when Creasy puts a bullet in the man’s skull (see video above).

One Word Descriptor: Merciless

Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glen, Albert Finney, Joan Allen

Plot Synopsis: Super spy with memory problems, Jason Bourne hunts down the clandestine intelligence agency within the U.S. government who turned him into a killing machine.

Set-up: Working with his former CIA handler, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), Bourne ends up in Tangiers. A CIA hitman locates Nicky and chases her through the slums. She ends up in an abandoned building as the assassin closes in. Bourne finds her and rushes to protect.

The Poetic Moment: Using lightning fast edits, Director Paul Greengrass gives us Jason Bourne crashing through a window and into an immediate melee with the assassin. The fight is fast and furious. Bourne and the assassin go for the kill with each blow – using books, papers, towels, and anything they can get their bloody hands on for weapons. It ends with Bourne strangling his opponent to death.

One Word Descriptor: Furious

Open Range (2003)

Director: Kevin Costner

Starring: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Michael Jeter, Diego Luna

Plot Synopsis: A group of free range herders encounter a land-grabbing cattle boss who orders them off public lands. When they refuse, the cattle boss has his ruthless band of desperados attack them. Boss Spearman (Duvall) and Charley Waite (Costner) decide to take the law into their own hands and take revenge.

Set-up: It turns out that in his younger days Charley was a ruthless gunslinger. He warns Boss that the fight ahead of them will be fast and violent, but that he should follow his lead. The two of wait at the back of the stables for the group of desperados headed by the cattle boss stride down the main fairway of the small town of Harmonville.

The Poetic Moment: Charley and Boss face off against five desperados in the middle of the street. Its all dirt, mud, and fresh lumber. Charley quickly assesses that the gunslinger in the bowler cap is the most dangerous. Eying the gunslinger, he strides forward. The camera angle switches to an overhead shot through a dirty window as he mosey up closer. “You the one who killed our friend?” Charley asks. “That’s right,” the gunslinger says in scratching whisper. “I shot the boy, too. And I enjoyed it.” He gives his buddies a sidelong smile and Charley draws his pistol and fires a bullet into his forehead. The gunslinger drops into the mud. The scene is perfectly executed – and is so unexpected – so sudden and murderous – that viewers are caught off guard. It’s an amazing start to one of the best gunfights in any Western.

One Word Descriptor: Quick

True Romance (1993)

Director: Tony Scott

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Michael Rapaport, Val Kilmer, Bronson Pinchot, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Tom Sizemore, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Synopsis: A video store geek’s friends send him a hooker named Alabama (Arquette) on his birthday and he falls in love with her. In order to set her free, he decides to approach her pimp and letting her go from her contract. He ends up stealing the pimp’s cocaine and trying to sell it in Hollywood.

Set-up: Clarence (Christian Slater) goes to the pimp’s headquarters to work out a deal.

The Poetic Moment: House music playing in the background, Drexl appears to be amused by Clarence. He asked him to have some of the Chinese food on the table where he’s been eating (smacking his lips and licking his fingers). “No thanks,” Clarence says. He looks nervous, wound up. Drexl pushes away his food with a smile. “I think you’re too scared to eat,” he says. He points a lamp in Clarence’s face and Clarence is blinded. “We sitting here ready to negotiate and you’ve already given up your shit.” Drexl goes into an instant analysis of how Clarence screwed up by not eating – that if he sat down and ate, Drexl would think how tough he actually is. He starts playing with him – teasing him about how he hasn’t sat down or looked at the naked women on the screen. Clarence looks frightened all right and the viewer thinks: Oh, boy. But Drexl’s got it all wrong as he sits giggling. Clarence gives him a look. “I’m not eating because I’m not hungry,” he says. “I’m not scared of you, I just don’t like you.” He hands over an envelope. “We aren’t negotiating. I don’t like to barter.” Oops, the envelope is empty. Drexl attacks and Clarence starts to lose – badly. And then Clarence kills him. And his bodyguard. It’s explosive and quick and brutal. And we realize, we have no idea what Clarence is capable of.

One Word Descriptor: Twisting

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Blogger movie said...
good fight scene


Blogger GFS3 said...
Ah, yes. Very good.

Blogger SQT said...
Bourne Ultimatum all the way.

Blogger GFS3 said...
The Bourne movies are among the best spy flicks ever. Matt Damon really pulls it off.

Blogger jsalvati said...
Just FYI Chingachgook is Uncas' father, not the other way around.

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