Mouth and several others have sent me the link to this blog post by the film academician David Bordwell. (Unfortunately he never mentions Seagal in there, so I can’t call him ‘fellow Seagalogist’ or ‘my esteemed colleague.’ And I’m not familiar enough with his work to call him ‘Dave.’)
It’s a good one and I figure it oughta be on the reading list. Basically he does a shot-by-shot analysis (with screen grabs) of a fight scene from the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie TOMORROW NEVER DIES and one from the Jackie Chan movie RIGHTING WRONGS. He shows how in the Bond scene the hits or even the enemies are often off screen, and shows how the Chan scene is designed to show fluid and clear movement. He also makes a good point about how the Chan scene is able to use very quick shots and still be understandable, which proves that the problem with that Michael Bay style is more than just the editing.
He sort of frames it as American action vs. Hong Kong action, but also mentions at the end that many modern Hong Kong movies have picked up the post-action style as well. It’s interesting that TOMORROW NEVER DIES works so well to demonstrate the points, since I think we’d all agree that QUANTUM OF SOLACE is much more extreme.
Bordwell also found some quotes from Stallone about THE EXPENDABLES which were disappointing. I didn’t realize that he had intentionally done a shitty job of shooting the action scenes, basically telling the camera crew to just cover what happens because “‘This is not supposed to hang in the Louvre.’ I wanted it to be disjointed and rough, not choreographed.”
I hope Stallone and all other current or future action movie directors will read Bordwell’s essay (for starters). Film is a medium of visual communication and if you’re not gonna communicate what’s going on in the action scenes then you shouldn’t bother filming them. Just go out in the backyard and wrestle some dudes.
Now here is Scott Adkins fighting Van Damme in THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL.