Great Fight Scenes (That Don't Star Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen, or Jackie Chan)
The surreal world of The Warriors (1979) is a visually distinct action film that, if nothing else, contributed the phrase “Can you dig it!” to the culture. While devoid of the usual martial art weapons, like throwing stars or Sai swords, instead, our heroes make great use of their environment. The brutal fight in the subway bathroom with “The Punks,” shows the utilization of everything available, including sinks, mirrors, stalls, and even the tiled walls.
Even people that haven’t seen The Warriors, are likely familiar with the bizarrely painted faces of the iconic Baseball Furies. The epic, baseball bat-battle royal in the park, is full of great choreography and a highlight of the film’s action. The overall takeaway, in terms of the style of fighting, is: don’t get fancy and use what you have.
The underrated 1980’s science-fiction film They Live (1988) by maverick director John Carpenter, about aliens using subliminal messaging to rule the world, provides a classic fight scene and a classic line from Roddy Piper, “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble gum.” Though They Live relies heavily on gun violence, it has one of the most poetically-realistic fight scenes in any movie.
The fight between actors Roddy Piper and Keith David is a study in realism that shuns flashy technique. Just about every “dirty fighting” technique is demonstrated, including, biting, eye-gouging, and groin shots that can be felt through the screen. With moments of sarcastic humor sprinkled throughout, the fight has a flow and pace that seems very natural and helps it sustain its incredible length of almost five minutes.
Charles Bronson is the new “hitter” in town and he makes an indelible impression on the underground bare-knuckle fighting world of depression-era New Orleans in Walter Hill’s (director of The Warriors) Hard Times (1975). The film’s tone is similar to the hard-punching pulp boxing stories of Robert E. Howard. Not much for catchphrases, the laconic Bronson, speaks with his fists, and the witty dialogue is left to his handler James Coburn.
While there are plenty of great fight scenes throughout the film, the steel-cage match between Bronson and Robert Tessier is a highlight. No fancy kicking or flamboyant exchanges, just punches, and a seemingly endless variety of them. As with many of the films of the 1970s, realism was often more desired than fantasy. For a stripped-down fight movie, Hard Timesis hard to beat.
All of these films are easy to find and worth watching. Seek them out…if you are looking for some action.
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