Monday, June 04, 2007

FIGHT! Overlooked gems in the world of cinema combat

Sure, this isn't comic book related, but what comic book fan doesn't love a good fight scene? Aside from those emo Ghost World losers I mean.*
Here's a look at some of my favoritest overlooked fight scenes of all time. Here you won't find any fight scenes from They Live or Old Boy or Drunken Master II, which people young and old across the world know and love. No, I'm straying off the beaten path and focusing on some neglected gems, if I may mix my metaphors and I think I can.
Let's go:
Tarzan vs Sabor (Disney's Tarzan, 1999)

Disney's animated Tarzan has a fantastic running battle between our hero and Sabor, the biggest, meanest leopard EVAR. It killed his parents, and now it's coming for his adopted family - but not if the Ape Man has anything to say about it. The guys who storyboarded this brief fight deserve a beer, because it is tight. I particularly like the little martial arts bit where Tarzan draws blood on Sabor then flips up his spear and exchanges growls. Plus, wouldn't all fight scenes benefit from the victor raising the corpse of their foe into the air and roaring in victory? Yes they would. Tarzan kicks that leapord's ass big time.

Street Fighter X-Ray Punch (The Street Fighter, 1974)

I couldn't find the precise moment I was looking for on YouTube, so you'll have to settle for the original Street Fighter trailer. For those unfamiliar with this piece of macho madness, Sonny Chiba stars as Terry Tsurugi, a phlegmatic assassin with a flair for killing blows who is 110% bad ass. In one scene, some bad guys have dropped Chiba's car from a great height. He survives the experience (by focusing his ki power, naturally) and proceeds to whup the living shit out of his assailants. He punches one poor goon in the top of his head and we get an X-ray shot of the guy's skull and neck getting broken. Then the guy spits 2.5 gallons of vivid red blood and dies. Hilarious!
Hector vs Achilles (Troy, 2004)

Achilles (Brad Pitt) kills half of Asia Minor in Wolfgang Petersen's Troy before the end of the movie. Everyone is either scared shitless or deeply aroused by Pitt's bronze age Terminator, or both. The only guy with the stones to stand up to Achilles is Hector, the Trojan prince played by Eric Bana. Hector has no illusions about how this is going to end (badly) and neither does anybody in the audience who sat through a Western Lit class, but he marches out in front of the walled city and takes on Achilles anyway. Betcha he's wishing he had a little of that gamma irradiated blood right about now. This is a deftly choreographed, well-acted, and brilliantly shot and cut fight scene that is better than the movie itself. Bonus points for Achilles' custom killing move, the Trampoline Thrust.

Mani vs Guys in Dresses (The Brotherhood of the Wolf, 2001)

This movie has it all: cool outfits, kung fu, rampaging monster, sword fights, intrigue, and a naked Monica Bellucci. Some people actually don't enjoy Christophe Gans genre-mashing Le Pacte des Loups. Afraid of the French? I think it's brilliant and audacious. You know you're in for something special at the beginning of the film when Mani (Mark Dacascos) busts some 18th century moves on a bunch of bandits in drag during a rainstorm. No explanation or context is provided; all of a sudden it's just a guy in a pirate hat kicking ass on ugly skirt wearing women. In slow-mo, no less.

(NOTE: Jeez, turn the sound off and watch this. The only decent clip of this fight I could find has Prince's "Talk Dirty To Me" laid over the video. WTF?)
Jack Bauer's Wall Walking Neck Snap (24 Season 2, 2001)

OK, it's not a movie, and the combat staging doesn't compare to most films, where they have like, weeks to film a single fight, but this scene from the first season of 24 had me off my couch screaming, "OH HELL YEAH!!! JACK BAUER NUMBER ONE!!!" I scared the hell out of my cat. It's all about the context. It's the end of a very busy day for CTU agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who has run all over L.A, been beat to hell, tortured, had a heart attack -- all without a chance to stop and take a piss. In the final hour of his 24-hour triathalon of pain, Bauer rescues the treacherous First Lady, but gets jumped by a terrorist thug. Fighting ensues, until Jack ends the tussle by pulling a Backside Air on the guy's neck. Ninja!

Martin Blank's High School Reunion Kickboxing Spectacular (Grosse Pointe Blank, 1997)

Finally, a classic fight between black-clad hitman Martin Blank (John Cusack) and a short Basque separatist killer in a turtleneck in the hallway of Blank's old high school. While his classmates at the reunion dance hideously to English Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom," Blank and his assailant do their own dance -- OF DEATH! The Spanish dude should know better than to try to beat Cusack at kickboxing (the sport of the future), because clearly Cusack has longer legs. Plus, he has a trick up his sleeve: ballpoint pen. That'll teach that Commie to bring a gun to a pen fight.

*Kidding. Jeez, go write about it in your journal if you can't take a little ribbing.


lostinube said...

Is the Streetfighter scene you're looking for the one at the 5:11 mark in this video?
I second the Martin Blank love. Llyoyd Dobler vs. the Jet!

lostinube said...

Llyoyd? I suck.

McGone said...

I think Russian Turtleneck is actually John Cusack's kickboxing trainer in real life. He gave John his skills, and he gave him a pen.

And I'm having a nerd moment, but wasn't that fantastic 24 scene at the end of season 2? (Not 1?)

ghostman said...

I hate to nitpick, but Grosse Pointe Blank is one of my favorite movies, mostly because I understand the way Martin says "a certain moral flexibility." Anyway, that shorter assassin was a Basque separatist that had turned pro, rather than a Russian. Also, his name was Felix LaPoubelle, which apparently means "the garbage can" in French. (Thank you, Wiki.)

Anthony Strand said...

Amen on the Tarzan love. That movie is so rad, I can't even believe it got away with a G rating. I'm not a guy with crazy bloodlust or anything, but there's some intense scenes in that movie. And they all pack an emotional punch.

It just might be the most underrated Disney movie ever.

Ted said...

Speaking of TV shows with awesome fight scenes, did you ever see that X-Files episode where Skinner and Mr. X fight in the elevator?

Shit is brutal, yo.

Anonymous said...

Also, hate to nitpick. The 24 scene is from season 2 not Season 1. Season 1 ended with Jack killing Dennis Hopper. Season 2 ended with Jack dying during torture and being reborn as The Spectre, God's Spirit of Vengeance.

Andy S

Parry Stiles said...

The Troy fight scene was indeed excellent! When I first saw the movie, I couldn't believe the shield and spear fight choreography. Definitely an overlooked and under appreciated movie fight scene. Rock on Dave!

semanticdrifter said...

I agree completely about the Martin Blank v. Felix LaPoubelle dust-up. It's realistic and stylized at the same time. I also really love the way Joan Cusack says the name "LaPoubelle" when she's giving her bro the rundown. I also love the term dust-up. And donny-brook.

Anonymous said...

Dude Dave, you've totally overlooked another crucial fight scene: Doom vs. the mouse! Don't leave us hanging, how'd it go down?

David Campbell said...

Thanks folks for the fact checks - changed to 24 Season 2 and Basque instead of Russian.

There's always somebody out there who can geek out harder than you...

David Campbell said...

Oh, and the mouse escaped the wrath of Doom, so all you advocates of humane traps can breathe easy...

...for now. Doom can be delayed, but never denied.

FoldedSoup said...

2 syllables.


Ambivalent said...

I'm doing classical studies in grad school right now and despite everything, I still managed to enjoy Troy (it really helps that Eric Bana and Brad Pitt are astoundingly, freakishly gorgeous, and that Orlando Bloom is portrayed as the sort of sniveling twit he looks like instead of an action hero).

The fight between Hector and Achilles stands out so much. I just remember watching it and listening to the music and thinking that the scene was way too good to be in this movie.

Anonymous said...

A few cool scenes aside, I hated Troy. I'm pretty sure that the Trojan War lasted more than three weeks. And wasn't Achilles supposed to be, you know, gay?

But love Brotherhood of the Wolf. Everything you say about it is spot on. Cool fight scenes, great monster and, of course, a naked Monica Bellucci.

Luke said...

When I saw Tarzan in the theatre, a good percentage of the kids were bawling every time Sabor showed up. That was so awesome.

Arkonbey said...

I think what makes the Grosse Point Blank scene the best is that the fighters actually get TIRED! And as they get more tired, their moves become less refined and more desperate.

Thanks for the list. Good choices.

Brian Mac said...

Loved all of them, Dave, but perhaps a bit of warning would be in order regarding the Prince track in the Brotherhood of the Wolf clip? That was...bizarre.

David Campbell said...

Hah! That's funny as hell; I picked out the Brotherhood of the Wolf clip at work (on break, I assure you) and I had the volume off so I didn't even hear the Prince track, I just thought it was a clip from the movie. What a weird, inappropriate choice. I'll see if I can find a non-Prince version of that fight.

At least it wasn't "Batdance."

Jacob said...

My favorite overlooked fight scene in Clint Eastwood's vast repertoire: from Pale Rider, The Preacher VS. Four Bullies with Axe Handles. 'Nuff said.

Jason said...

Ohhhh, good one Jacob, that's a forgotten favorite.

Did you realize that they made a sequel to Grosse Point Blank? I have no idea when it's coming out, but I want it.

The Mutt said...

Ah, my favorite subject: staged combat. Excellent choices, Dave. You caught me off guard with the Tarzan, but I couldn't agree more.

Good stage fighters fight "in character", using their own style, with moves that come from their history and personality. Tarzan, Martin Blank and Achilles are good examples of this.

The best fight I've seen lately is Tony Soprano vs Ralphie Cifaretto in the kitchen.

spacekicker said...

great post. The guy that Cusack is fighting is Benny the Jet Urquidez. He's Cusacks real life Kickboxing instructor. He also has this unbelievable fight scene in one of Jackie Chan's flix's, though the name of which escapes me. Man...these scenes pump me up Rocky IV style!

Jeff said...

a naked monica bellucci who is a papal assassin undercover as a gypsy prostitute!

You don't get better than Brotherhood of the Wolf.

Garth said...

That's not just any ugly little Spanish dude, that's Benny "the Jet" Urquidez. He's been in a few Jackie Chan flicks. Dragons Forever (where he snorts coke before getting down to business), Wheels On Meals, and I think at least one more.

Tyler said...

I can't believe you left off Point Break. I'll forgive you because I couldn't find any clips of the fight scenes, but one involves Anthony Kiedis, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves and a surfboard. Another one involves Swayze and Keanu fighting while they're skydiving. I will repeat this: they fight each other while they're skydiving. It doesn't get any more awesome than that.

It also has the greatest footchase scene in the history of American Movie Cinema (and it's also the only footchase scene in history to use a pitbull as a weapon).

nmrboy said...

could i suggest the last sequence from equilibrium? the section when he confronts father is genius, and totally underrated. the sword duel is nicely swift, and the whole gun kata idea was inspired madness, and separates the film from other decent action films. and christian bale doesn't get his nice jacket dirty, so that's good.


David Campbell said...

nmrboy, I totally agree about Equilibrium - I briefly touched upon part of that scene here.

tyler, that chase scene is indeed boss. There's also a fine overlooked foot chase in The Presidio that I can't find a video of that is worth checking out.

ES said...

Common one, but you have to give credit to Roddy Piper vs. David Keith in John Carpenter's "They Live". Two guys beating the tar out of each other in a back alley for about 12 minutes.

"Put! On! The glasses!"

Anonymous said...

"And wasn't Achilles supposed to be, you know, gay?"

Nope. Admittedly, he's been read as gay by generations of scholars, but go to the source and check it out: there's nothing on the page to support his supposed homosexual relationship with Patroklos. When they sleep, they sleep with women. To a large extent, Achilles has been misread as gay because of the ironically homophobic assumption that two men can't be close without being lovers. Of course, you'll hear that of course they were lovers since in ancient Greece, the erastes-eromenos relationship blah blah blah. In which case, here's the question: if homosexuality was so common, how come Homer was so circumspect in describing their relationship? It doesn't wash.

Anyway: "Troy" sucked for many reasons, among them: 1) it had Menelaus die, which causes some problems given that his character shows up alive and well 20 years later in the "Odyssey"; 2) it actually tried to pass off Paris and Helen's relationship as romantic and sweet, even though in the original it was nothing of the sort; 3) it was unbelievably heavy-handed with its anti-imperialism story angle, neglecting the subtle and much more effective moralizing of the original; and 4) it consistently showed a preference for shallow and superficial treatments of complex and difficult dramatic themes. If you're going to make a movie based on a literary classic and decide to make major changes to the plot of said classic, those changes should at least be for the better, not the worse.

Ted Bramble said...

"Brotherhood of the Wolf"--OMG possibly the best movie EVAH.

French, espionage, kung-fu, Indian-fu (teepee Indian, not Slurpee Indian), boobies, giant wolf thing-fu, historical period action, magicial sidekick-fu, and more sweet quotes than the underside of a Snapple bottle.

Mentos Dave!

Anonymous said...

A very cool fight scene that is often overlooked occurs in 'The Living Daylights'. The reason that it is overlooked is that it doesn't feature James Bond.

It's the fight between Necros (the assassin who strangles people with his Walkman cord) and the butler at the MI6 safehouse.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Dave agrees with anonymous re: the living daylights fight:


Anonymous said...

Oops, try here.

Mark said...

Great choices!
I have to second "the mutt" at 8:30, and I'll add my all-time favorite:

Rob Roy
EVERY single fight in this one advances character in an absolutely crucial way. I particularly like the one-move tavern "duel" between Liam Neeson's Rob Roy and the Ugliest Scotsman Evah. And Cunningham is the kind of villian that people love to hate. True story: I saw this in the theater, and people were actually _hissing_ when Cunningham (Tim Roth) came onscreen.

Anonymous said...

"Grosse Point Blank" is just a well-made little gem of a movie. Minnie Driver is adorable instead of annoying. Joan Cusack is great as the secretary. It's just all good.

As long as we're spreading some Disney love, can I suggest a post called "ESCAPE!" ? Because cinema is full of great escapes, and one of the greatest comes in the first ten minutes of "Lilo and Stitch". They have that little bastard trussed up in the full Lecter, and it takes him about two minutes to get out. It's great.

I mentione this because Anthony said "Tarzan" might be the most underappreciated Disney movie ever. Tough call, but I have to go with the Hawaiian. "Lilo and Stitch" is just the awesome.

Doug M.

Arroz said...

ALPHA DOG: this movie is not the best, but just the same, the fight scene comes out of nowhere--rampaging beatdown through a crowd of california valley dweebs!

groobles said...

i don't want to make anyone jealous, but i'm actually watching "the street fighter" on DVD, right now, in tokyo, with a beer in my hand.

the x-ray scene is indeed awesome, but the problem with this movie is like, where do you draw the line? because right after the x-ray punch, there's the "stepping maneuver with progressively more grisly crunching noises" on the very same guy, followed a few scenes later by the double eye "poke 'n sniff" ... i mean come on, if you're going to talk about this movie, you pretty much have to post a YouTube clip of the entire thing. including how terry tsurugi keeps basically raping all the female victims in the movie (and sells one of them into hong kong prostitution). mmmmm, misogy-licious.

Tim Easy said...

The Sonny Chiba X-Ray Punch would be a great name for a punk rock band. Picture this... At the end of each concert, the lead singer punches the bass player on top of his skull, the bass player then spits 2.5 gallons of blood into the crowd. It's a little bit GWAR, but whatever. It works!

My favorite Sonny Chiba fight is in KARATE BULLFIGHTER, when he fights that mad bull in the streets. Technically, it's still a fight in the streets, which pretty much makes Sonny Chiba the biggest baddest streetfightin' man who ever prowled Nippon.

groobles said...

but if we start in on KARATE BULLFIGHTER vs. KARATE BEARFIGHTER and whatnot, this will basically just turn into the ISB.

and then where would we be?

Andy said...

"including how terry tsurugi keeps basically raping all the female victims in the movie (and sells one of them into hong kong prostitution). mmmmm, misogy-licious."

Heh, it's been a while since I've seen The Streetfighter, but one of the things I remember about it that struck me as odd is how inconsistent Chiba's character is. In the beginning of the movie, he really is an honest-to-God amoral son of a bitch, but then somewhere halfway through he's suddenly all like "Augh! I hate punks who only pick on the helpless!" And then he becomes a standard hero who sticks up for the underdog.


groobles said...

andy, the turning point is when tsurugi gets his @ss kicked at the karate school by the old, chubby mr. miyagi figure who knew his dad. that's what basically shows him that he's not the baddest guy on the planet, and he signs up with the good guys shortly thereafter. it really got me thinking: could sensei john kreese have been turned back from the dark side the same way? what did chubby have that mister miyagi didn't?

Tom the Bomb said...

The 24 fight! Yes! I had totally forgotten about this gem, but I remember when I first saw it -- I was freaking out. I must have rewound the thing and rewatched it three times that night.

EditorJDC said...

"Plus, wouldn't all fight scenes benefit from the victor raising the corpse of their foe into the air and roaring in victory?"

I do this EVERY time I find a discounted item I want at Target.



Astonishing Adventures Magazine

Grasshopper said...

Now if Chiba's character were in the Karate Kid, he would have straightened out those punks. And then sold Daniel-san's girlfriend into prostitution...

Anonymous said...

Why you no post, Dave Campbell?

Louis C. Ueli said...

Martin Blank rocks and so does his kickboxing trainer who played Felix. Man, that scene is tight!

But Dave, where the F is the Ash vs. his evil hand-scene from Evil Dead 2? Geez, get your priorities straight, man! Bruce C. getting clobbered with porcelain by his own beloved hand until he cuts it off with a chainsaw! Definitely overlooked. Or is that just me?

groobles said...

OK, so this is an old post and i'm sure no one will read my comment. but damnit, the street fighter is just that important. anyway, this is all a lot of setup to say that i'm currently watching "the return of the street fighter" and although it's somewhat derivative, the "punch the guy in the back of the head so hard that his eyes pop out of his face" pretty much needs to be added to the list of great street fighter moves.

Anonymous said...

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