Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Elegantly Bare-bones Fight Scene

I had the opportunity to watch Haywire this week, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring the impressive Gina Carano. 

Now, I won't make more of this than it is: as movies go, it's fine.  The plot is pretty thin (Spy X is betrayed by handlers, therefore Spy X must Punch Everyone), the dialogue is unremarkable, and while she is bolstered by an impressive supporting cast (Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonion Bandares, Michael Fassbender), Gina Carano isn't going to be winning any Oscars.  She's not bad as an actress-- she carries herself equitably, unlike Van Damme or Segal in many of their 80s actioners-- but she's not there to deliver lines.* 

She's there to Punch Everyone, which she does fantastically, because that's what Gina Carano does for a living.

What's remarkable about the fight scenes in Haywire is how pared down they are from the usual Hollywood action scenes.  There's no wire-work, no slow-motion, no rapid-fire edits, no obvious foley-audio and no pulse-pounding score.  They aren't hyper-choreographed ballets of fists and feet. 

In other words, they look and sound like actual fistfights.

I really liked that approach, and it's something I've tried to capture in my writing, although in a different medium.  My fighting experience is mostly limited to stage fight choreography**, but for me the key thing is grounding it in point-of-view, and focusing on the emotions and raw kinetics.  Not to showy, nor too technical.

Do I succeed?  I hope so, since action sequences tend to be centerpieces of all my Heroes of Maradaine books.  But we'll have to see.

*-I will credit Ms. Carano in doing just fine with her expression work. In her big showcase fight, there's a moment where the fight's not over, but she's already won, really.  And her face goes from intense to Zen calm for a moment.  I really liked it.

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