You Wanna Fight?… Fight Me!

There’s something I need to get off my chest. Recently, the late legend Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon was on AMC, and it got me to thinking that I couldn’t remember the last recent film I saw that featured a really intense and fantastic hand-to-hand combat scene. Now, I hate to be a guy who says, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” and in fairness I’ve yet to see films such as Fighting and Never Back Down, but honestly I don’t really have interest in them, as I’ve convinced myself that they can’t really be good. After all, they’re actually just cheap knockoffs of Rocky, The Karate Kid, etc. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean the fight sequences can’t be good, but I’m just not excited about Channing Tatum as an action star. In fact, it seems there are very few bona fide fight stars these days. I’ve never really been a Jackie Chan fan (After all, he’s an stuntman first, and a martial artist second), and while Liam Neeson had some great scenes in Taken, there wasn’t really anything extended in the way of fisticuffs. Anyway, my point is that I really had to reach back a little bit to come up with something decent.

OK, so there was the scene between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and multiple Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving) in Matrix Reloaded, Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) taking on Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama) and plenty of Crazy 88s in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and the great scene between Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro in The Hunted. All three of these films take us to 2003, and it’s what I could come up with “pretty much” off the top of my head. Has it really been seven years since a good fight scene has been produced? I guess one could catalog a litany of Asian martial arts films over the last decade, but I’m primarily focusing on American films (even though Bruce Lee was my homeboy). Besides, I’m not all that interested in the high-flying Asian style of movie fighting—that uses wires to make the actors take flight—that has become increasingly popular in the last ten years or so. (Yes, I know, the Matrix movies utilized some of that tactic as well, but I’ll forgive them). It’s with all this in mind that I started to get a little nostalgic.

Now, it’s not my goal to document every great fight scene in the history of filmmaking, but who could forget the climactic tussle between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man? Most would argue that this is one of the most popular movie fights ever. There’s also Paul Newman getting roughed up by George Kennedy (a favorite of mine who also happens to share my birthday) in Cool Hand Luke. Later, as martial arts became popular, two superstars in Lee and Chuck Norris battled in Return Of The Dragon. Norris would eventually face off against another legend in David Carradine for a great scene in Lone Wolf McQuade. Now, that’s fighting!

This already takes us to the 1980s, which was the decade that made up most of my formative years. Therefore, I fondly remember Clint Eastwood scrapping with William Smith in Any Which Way You Can, Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy settling their differences in 48 Hrs., and Arnold Schwarzenegger rescuing his daughter (Alyssa Milano) by throwing down with Vernon Wells in Commando. (After all, who wouldn’t want to rescue Alyssa Milano?) There was also Mel Gibson, in happier times, utilizing a triangle choke to try to take out Gary Busey during the tremendous brawl in Lethal Weapon. Additionally, who doesn’t remember the classic, and somewhat ridiculous but still fun, dust-up between “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Keith David in John Carpenter’s sci-fi tale They Live?

What I’m getting at here is that I think sometimes people have become a little too sensitive in the politically-correct age of personal laptops and Starbucks coffee to really get into some serious head stompin’. Believe me, I’m not trying to sound like a ruffian. Violence in the real world is unfortunate, but violence in the movies is awesome. Isn’t that one of the reasons why films exist? That’s why I want to make an impassioned plea to filmmakers across the country to get back to real butt-kicking. Everyone wants to see a Pat Morita beating the tar out of Thomas Ian Griffith, Martin Kove and Sean Kanan in The Karate Kid III, or the legendary Bruce Leroy Green destroying Sho’nuff in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, even if the movies aren’t that great. Please! I implore all of you, or else Harvey Weinstein and I are gonna have to tangle… I am kind of looking forward to the upcoming film The Expendables, featuring a who’s who of action stars. Maybe there will be some good knockouts in that, but I won’t hold my breath. Am I missing a decent fight in the last decade? Help me out film fans.