Sunday 13 May 2007
Hey, wait your turn! Let's make this a fair fight...
One of my favourite blog posts of late is this one from Daily Film Dose discussing long takes and tracking shots with YouTube examples. I'm a sucker for extended shots where the camera moves and follows different characters and events all without any edits.
One specific scene referenced and embedded in the blog is this one from the recent Thai action flick The Protector:
It's a tremendous and very well choreographed scene and made me decide to rent the movie. But it, as well as several other fight scenes in the film, suffer from the One Man At A Time syndrome. In other words, the guys attacking our hero may be vicious criminals who enjoy the act of killing, but they just can't stand the thought of being seen as unfair...So they attack one at a time. Even though our hero is obviously enormously strong and has wiped out plenty of people already, you just can't gang up on him! That would be uncouth!
Now contrast that to this sequence from the great Korean vengeance film Oldboy (also mentioned in the Daily Film Dose post - the single shot starts about 30 seconds into the segment):
They attack him from behind, kick him on the floor, hit him with sticks, etc. And all at once if possible. Even when it's one at a time it's made to look realistic because everyone's had a chance at that point and been somewhat beaten down.
And the thing is, in "The Protector" Tony Jaa is a hell of an imposing guy. Not necessarily by his figure, but just his presence and the way he carries himself and walks. Right at the start of that scene when he walks into the lobby - he just owns it. And as he fights you can see the quickness and forcefulness of each move. They could have bunches of guys jump on him at the same time, have him woop them all and you would buy it. They didn't have to resort to the One Man At A Time crutch. Especially in a later fight where he decimates 40 guys - one at a freakin' time.
"Oldboy's" Dae-su is less imposing, but his intensity and the fact he has absolutely nothing to lose carries him through and allows you to buy his eventual thrashing of the whole lot of 'em.
In the end, both of these specific scenes are very well served by the single take.