🎬 #103 Landing A Punch.
Back in the day, the cliche sound of a punch in cinema was kind of like a thwack, crack, whip type sound - not too far removed from the 1960’s Batman TV show - kablueey. The depiction of fights in film have been there since its very beginnings. Humble, stage-like one on one combat, through to Hong Kong cinema’s intricate acrobatic style of real flesh and blood at risk - think Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee to dance like, choreographed set-pieces, to films that asked what would it actually be like to get brutally beaten up? What sound does that make? The wet slap of heavy meat tenderised ‘gainst bone. This week’s two films approach it from two angles - and I’d argue that one of the directors is the master of real brutality when it comes to fights on film.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: THE KILLER
2023 Dir David Fincher
[1hr 58 mins]
I saw this at the London Film Festival last year. You could feel that the entire audience’s assholes were squeezed as tight as their lungs during the anxiety-inducing fight sequence near the end of the second act - my own asshole was no exception. This was possibly the most meticulous hand to hand carnage ever directed by David Fincher. It genuinely is hold your breath, grip your seat style filmmaking.
The vibration of the camera, the weighty sound design, gives the human body’s at stake a presence that’s rarely felt. You get what’s at stake because you own a body. The entire scene is kept in low light, hiding the increasingly graphic violence, Fincher gives us just enough to make us continually wince. It’s also a fight where both characters are skilled but they’re relying on efficiency. Even if you are a black belt, if your life is on the line you’d try to smash the other person into a TV too. I think that’s what makes the scene so effective. There’s no sense of pre-rehearsal if that makes sense, no sense of steps learned. It all rings true if you were in the same centre of chaos. Kilos of steroid-propelled musculature bearing down on you, and Fincher captures it beautifully.
TL;DR David Fincher’s latest puts him in the same genre as his friend Soderbergh with a tight tale of a hitman getting hit back.
*Available on Netflix in the US and UK.
Fact: Most of the ‘handheld’ shots in the film were actually effect shots achieved in post-production.
FILM TWO: THE RAID
2011 Dir Gareth Evans
[1hr 41 mins]
Gareth Evan’s action thriller combines camera and fight choreography that has a unique energy all of its own. It feels more like a game than the real-life fisticuffs of The Killer - it’s just a very different way to approach violence and character through literally 100’s of villainous human obstacles. It’s an exhilarating act of blocking and intricate choreography - but it maintains the straight-forwardness of someone trying to get to The Boss at the top level.
It’s brilliantly and brutally simple, they must fight their way through a building filled with criminals. The tension and ratcheting stakes expressed through the visual accession of floors, the wake of bodies left behind a reminder of how far the protagonist has come.
This is a gripping, tight, sinewy fight thriller that will make you wonder how no humans were harmed during the making of it.
TL;DR Visit The Raid for a new take on martial arts cinema.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US and on Apple, Google and YouTube in the UK.
Fact: The original title "Serbuan Maut" means Death Raid in English.
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