In the wake of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, filmmakers and filmgoers alike began to test the boundaries of just how high-flying a fight scene could be. With the rise both of superhero cinema and movie budgets, it now seems that an action scene can scarcely be called a success unless an entire city block gets vaporized via an effect that cost more than the Baltimore school system.
These fights can be fun, certainly, but there is something to be said for action scenes that shrink the scope and up the pain, making the audience feel every crack and smash.
Here are five films which truly mean it when they say: “Two men enter, one man leaves.”
6. The Bourne Supremacy
It’s a shame that in the nine years since this film’s release, director Paul Greengrass has seen his aesthetic get tarnished as lazy, stupid filmmakers copy and pasted Greengrass’s style but were too lazy and/or stupid to understand either the why and how of what he was doing. Because of the laziness and stupidity, you see. Greengrass got his start in documentaries, and he carried that over into his first narrative films.
The fight scene between Matt Damon’s amnesiac assassin and Marton Csokas’ not-amnesiac also assassin leans on every bit of Greengrass’s ability to conjure immediacy and intimacy. While both men are trained in weapons and hand-to-hand combat, the confined space of Csokas’ kitchen and dining room gives them no room for fancy moves or elaborate weaponry. The two men grapple and pummel each other, and when weapons are incorporated, the only items on hand are rolled up magazines and a pen.
Greengrass goes out of his way to emphasize the mundane nature of the fight, whether it’s the emphasis on the Venetian blinds or the sound design which lets the audience hear every slice and crunch. There’s nothing glamorous or alluring about this spy life. Just two men who are very much able to kill each other, desperate not to be the first to go under. And with that, the modern action movie was born.
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This article was first posted on August 23, 2013