I was surprised to watch Haywire last night and like it to a point of considering it the movies with the best (read: realistic and credible) fighting scenes I have seen in a long time.
There is no doubt that my passion for martial arts was started in the 70ies with Bruce Lee and other Hong Kong productions which were invading the cinema theatres at that time; I have also written in the past about movies that, seen now with experience and knowledge, look a bit ridiculous. Too often choreographers and stunt coordinators simply assume we are all gullible and we don’t understand what’s possible and just fill up movies with scenes which as just pure fantasy.
I found Haywire different; using techniques which are credible and nearly realistic. Gina Carano showing off her full repertoire of Muay Thai well mixed with ju-jistu and wrestling. It’s realistic to the point that she fights people bigger than her with real effort and manages to get hurt in the process, she even looks out of breath a couple of times which is unusual in movies.
Of course some scenes are exaggerated. She gets shot in an arm and, despite a few minutes of pain, two scenes later she carries on fighting as nothing happened. Then the scene in the hotel, against the character played by Michael Fassbender, when her head and face hit glass panels and other sharp objects without getting cut but, hey, it’s a movie after all 😉 Well done to producer, director, actors, stunt coordinator and of course Gina who uses very well her martial arts skills together with the typical action movie plot.
Although I must have seen this movie tens of times every time I find it on TV I tend to watch at least a few scenes: last week was no different.
I have a great respect for Bruce Lee and what he managed to do during the few years of his intense career as martial artist first and then as an actor. At the same time I have to say that I started noticing too many flaws in the plot, coreography and, actually, even in the fighting scenes of most of his movies.
As usual there are a few things that are generally contraddicting the whole story: the character played by Bruce Lee is sent to Rome where his cousins have a Chinese restaurant and they are having trouble with a local gang that, by the way, with all place in the Italian capital really need that restaurant to be the centre for an international drug traffic 🙂
Bruce is depicted as a Kung Fu champion, Chinese boxing as they define it many times: so the first question is why in one of the first fighting scenes against the gangsters he pulls out 2 nunchakus, a Japanese (Okinawan to be precise) weapon?
The whole movie has a very broken rithm (like Bruce Lee suggest to use when fighting) and it culminates in the final scene, the very famous one where Bruce Lee defeats Chuck Norris (the American Champion) in the Coliseum (see the clip below.
According to the movie “The Warrior Journey” Lee explains that this scene starts with him fighting Norris using traditional Kung Fu (I would be curious to know which style considering that Bruce Lee had a Wing Chun background with no high kicks while here most kicks are toward the face…) and is loosing. So he changes strategy in the second part of the scene and using the basic principles of Jeet Kune Do he becomes adaptable (and kicking the legs) and manages to kill his opponent. I mention this scene often as an example for a particular style of spinning back hook kick that Chuck Norris uses several times when I explain one of the common mistakes people can make when performing a hook kick.
I am going to conclude this by stating that for a Chinese production of 1972 this movie is great and there is no doubt that next time I will find it on TV I’ll watch it again. At the same time I fail to get as excited and inspired as I used to: perhaps I have seen live so many performances of good martial artist that Bruce Lee is no longer so special and unique?
I’ll let you judge what I am saying after you see the clip below:
Last night I was browsing various TV channels and I bumped into Kickboxer a movie produced in 1989 with the main character played by a young and f it Jean Claude Van Damme. I remember seeing this movie at the cinema when it was released (yes, I am that old) and I often refer to it when I explain certain techniques, not necessarily for the quality of the scenes but mostly to describe how things should not be done.
The story is pretty simple: Van Damme’s older brother (in the movie) is an undefeated national champion of full contact kickboxing and somebody suggests he should go and change the Thai champion. He goes and accepts to fight Thai Boxing rules (that obviously allow elbow and knee strikes that he cannot handle) and he gets not only defeated but his back gets broken and has to be on a wheel chair. Van Damme’s character decides to avenge his brother by learning kickboxing under a famous local master and at end, as it happens in any respectable American production the good wins, the bad gets beaten and humiliated and so on…
My reason to write this post is to point out a few features that suggest watching the movie while a few comments about how the director could have done a better job.
Van Damme has a typical Karate posture and style, with a low (shall I say inexistent?) guard and a very pumped up attitude for single killer punches rather than good, classical combinations of boxing techniques: he doesn’t (at least in this movie) looks very much of a kickboxer. At the same time his fitness and technique, at least in performing certain kicks (like at the end of the fight when, out of the ring kicks Tong Po in the face with a perfect side kick and then, with the same leg he kicks round kick in the face of the organiser) is just great. What is very annoying is the continuous cut and re sampling of scenes that try to amplify the prowess of the various techniques.
In movies people can be kicked and punched for hours without much damage or even running out of breath and this is no different but, ok, perhaps I am a bit too strict on these things.
As a conclusion I can say that this is a decent martial arts movie, if you ignore the awful non combat scenes and plot it shows some good techniques and, as it happened last night, when I bump into it I tend to watch at least some parts of it.