I've been a movie viewer for nigh on 31 of my 37 years, and have tried to immerse myself in as many types of films that I've found myself able. But I'm always drawn back to the allure of genre movies. On that note, I'm going to attempt to do a series on my favorite individualized aspects of genre film. I'm starting with the fight scenes.
5. Mickey O'Neil, the "pikey" (Brad Pitt) vs. "Good Night" Anderson in Guy Ritchie's sophomore effort, "Snatch". The kinetic editing, grainy look, solid choreography, and Ritchie's Scorcese-esque use of sound design put this one over the top into greatness.
4. Roddy Pipper vs. Keith David in John Carpenter's "They Live". Carpenter was never known for action set pieces. He was more of an atmosphere and tension guy, but the sheer length and physicality he gets out of the brawl between these two cult stalwarts, Piper of WWF/WCW wrestling fame, and David, with the voice that installs fear (and size to boot) is definitely top notch.
3. Tom Laughlin vs. the rich tyrant's hooligans in the town square in "Billy Jack" circa 1971. Granted, the bulk of the rest of the film was a left wing love-fest with shoddy acting (with the exception of Dolores Taylor) and even worse dialogue, the movie DID mean well. But when Billy dispatches of the henchmen, it is with the martial arts choreography of high order, slow-motion, quick cut editing and sound, and skillful execution by Laughlin. It predates the best of John Woo by at least 10 years and should be noticed as such. Had to be an influence.
Here's a taste....
2. Jean Claude Van Damme vs. a bunch of homeless perverted robbers attempting to victimize Yancy Butler early on in the under-rated "Hard Target". All of the qualities of the above "Billy Jack" entry are here, with improved film speed editing and camera skill by the king, John Woo. Say what you will about the level of Van Damme's "true" martial arts skills, he at least made it look damn good.
1. Joseph Gordon Levitt's decking of the football jock in "Brick". Sometimes a little is a lot. After a clumsy beginning to the brawl, a cross from hell puts Levitt's nemesis down for the count, and somewhat unexpectedly. A nice physical moment in a very quirky, cerebral, and off-beat film. Good Stuff.
Honorable mention must go to the Subway station restroom brawl between the Warriors and a bunch of goons led by a roller-skate riding freakjob in Walter Hill's 1979 masterpiece, "The Warriors" Snow, my personal favorite Warrior kicks major booty in this scene, was played by Brian Tyler, whose Tae Kwon Do skills made his brawling scenes more believeable. He became a state trooper, and retired in 2004.