Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Best of Asian Action Cinema Part I: The Introduction

I love Asian action movies. I find them to be just, so many times better than what gets put out here stateside. Sure we have the money to create amazing large scale shit going bam, which is fun, but the stuff that comes out of Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the rest of the continent is nothing short of art and pure cinema.

So here we are, I'm gonna post and talk about what are, in my opinion, some of the greatest action and fight scenes throughout Asia, past to present. A few biases first of all. Personally, I find the stuff out of Hong Kong and Mainland China to be the absolute best, but strong contenders are coming from all sides now, making it a great time to be a fan of action movies.

What's the main difference?

Well, the big one, we can see what the fuck is going on in an Asian fight scene, as opposed to how things look here, which is chopped to hell. Three reasons for this:
1) Directors here may simply prefer the look of shaky cam way up close action editing believing it to create a more intense and chaotic atmosphere, which it kind of does.
2) We just don't have actors who have spent their whole lives practicing and perfecting any of the martial arts, so we have to cut constantly to hide the stunt doubles required for much of the action.
3) Insurance! When you see someone fall off a roof and smack onto the ground 30 feet below in, let's say a Thai movie, that person is pretty much really falling off that roof at full speed and smashing into the ground. That type of shit won't fly here in the states.

Since we're talking about the quick cut, up close action style here in the states, we might as well go to the big source responsible for it's popularization, The Bourne movies, particularly those directed by Paul Greengrass.

Now compare that to another 1 on 1 fight from Hong Kong. Try to ignore the complete absurdity of how far he throws that little girl.

Now I'm not saying that you have to like the second one better, you can like whatever the fuck you want, but one has to admit that Flash Point allows you to see what happens and keeps the intensity high. Whereas with Supremacy, yeah, you can tell what's basically happening but it just feels kind of fake. It's a fight scene that's the product of editing and tricky camera work, not true ability from the actors.

Therein lies another bias of mine. I truly believe that when it comes to action, the less aware the audience is of a camera the better. By this I mean that a fight scene is not the place for the director to show off his ability behind a camera.

There has been a slight resurgence lately here in the States of solid, comprehensible action in films like Kill Bill, some of Scott Pilgrim, some of Zack Snyder's work, Drive, and most notably Haywire.

But that's enough of that. This is gonna be about Asian cinema, so get ready, cause it's gonna be one hell of a load of crazy.

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