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What Makes a Good Action Scene? 
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
That Eastern Promises scene if fucking brutal...b, r, utal. When I watch that though, I don't think, "Damn, that was a good action scene," I think, "Damn, that was a hell of a fight."

The basement tavern scene in Inglourious Basterds is another example where I don't see it as an "action" scene. It's a very tense, taut scene where I don't want the Basterds found out. They initially thought no Germans to be down there, only to find one of the top ranks. Ratchets up the tension...but action? I don't know...I mean, it does escalate to some bloodshed, but...

I guess I'm mistaken in what I think an action scene is. What do you guys define as an action scene?

Examples for me of, I don't know, "traditional" action scenes are like the opening of Raiders, or the Dash chase scene in The Incredibles, or that Los Angeles freeway scene in Terminator 2...

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Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:42 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
ram1312 wrote:
That Eastern Promises scene if fucking brutal...b, r, utal. When I watch that though, I don't think, "Damn, that was a good action scene," I think, "Damn, that was a hell of a fight."

The basement tavern scene in Inglourious Basterds is another example where I don't see it as an "action" scene. It's a very tense, taut scene where I don't want the Basterds found out. They initially thought no Germans to be down there, only to find one of the top ranks. Ratchets up the tension...but action? I don't know...I mean, it does escalate to some bloodshed, but...

I guess I'm mistaken in what I think an action scene is. What do you guys define as an action scene?

Examples for me of, I don't know, "traditional" action scenes are like the opening of Raiders, or the Dash chase scene in The Incredibles, or that Los Angeles freeway scene in Terminator 2...


I know the Inglourious Basterds scene isn't strictly speaking an action scene (although it does end with a shoot out, so why shouldn't it count?) but I threw it out there to illustrate my point about the importance of having a sympathetic character (or two or more) actually being involved in an action scene.
-Jeremy

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Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:52 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
thered47 wrote:
ram1312 wrote:
That Eastern Promises scene if fucking brutal...b, r, utal. When I watch that though, I don't think, "Damn, that was a good action scene," I think, "Damn, that was a hell of a fight."

The basement tavern scene in Inglourious Basterds is another example where I don't see it as an "action" scene. It's a very tense, taut scene where I don't want the Basterds found out. They initially thought no Germans to be down there, only to find one of the top ranks. Ratchets up the tension...but action? I don't know...I mean, it does escalate to some bloodshed, but...

I guess I'm mistaken in what I think an action scene is. What do you guys define as an action scene?

Examples for me of, I don't know, "traditional" action scenes are like the opening of Raiders, or the Dash chase scene in The Incredibles, or that Los Angeles freeway scene in Terminator 2...


I know the Inglourious Basterds scene isn't strictly speaking an action scene (although it does end with a shoot out, so why shouldn't it count?) but I threw it out there to illustrate my point about the importance of having a sympathetic character (or two or more) actually being involved in an action scene.
-Jeremy


The bolded part is what I'm asking Jeremy, see, you felt that it wasn't necessarily an action scene, but then added that it had a shoot out. So is that what an action scene needs? An act of violence towards someone else? Or just an act of violence? Or is violence even necessary?

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Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:55 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Erm, wasn't really thinking in terms of what constitutes an action scene or what doesn't...

In any case, "action scene" would generally imply that there is action that takes place during a scene, but what is action? Chases, shoot outs, fisticuffs, wizards casting spells, armies clashing, that sort of thing. But certainly, speaking of the Inglourious Bastards scene that I mentioned... it can be seen as an action scene only at the end, with the rest being build up to the action itself. Or because of the presence of suspense (although I don't find it to be all that suspenseful) one can consider the whole thing to be an action scene.

I think the term as it is, is so vague, that it's one of those, "I'll know it when I see it..." sorts of things...
-Jeremy

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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
It necessarily requires a broad definition. I'd suggest that an action scene is a scene in which the tension is built and resolved primarily through a high level of physical activity.

This rules out scenes in which the tension is built and resolved through dialogue, sex, low-speed pursuit (think Marion and the cop in Psycho), or what have you.

By this definition, I would hesitantly rule out the tavern scene in Inglourious Basterds. At best, it is a hybrid: a scene in which the tension is built primarily through dialogue and resolved with a high level of physical activity.

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Sun Feb 03, 2013 3:30 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
There just needs to be some emotion behind it. Good action is an expression of emotion. In the absolute best movies, literally almost every action, from the shooting of a gun to walking across a room, has emotion behind it. Many summer blockbusters of the last several years exist in emotional vaccums; there's a scary feeling that the director doesn't even care about what he's doing. Violence and action should represent emotional crescendos rather than simply loudness crescendos.


Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:31 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
There are many more I'm sure, but when I read about developed characters I think of the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, beginning from when the kids got found out by the Death Eaters. We've known most of these characters for 5 years, and the feeling of hopelessness when a group of kids are surrounded by vicious adults is palpable, and makes the following action scenes when they run and fight back really tense and more involving.

Also, Dumbledore vs. Voldemort. May be the best action scene of the series (although the last film has some serious contenders).


Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:01 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
The most important things in an action scene is purpose, clarity and cause & effect.

An action scene must have a reason for being there, and it MUST have something there besides "This looks fucking awesome". As MGamesCook says, having directly tied into the emotional stakes of the characters is a good starting point.

Clarity and cause & effect are very much tied together. All action scene must be comprehensible, even if its supposed to depict a sense of chaos. Look at the firefight that breaks out in the basement of Inglorious Basters. That scene depicts the sheer chaos of a sudden and unexpected eruption of violence, and though it's short and messy, it's easy to see what's going on. This is because the scene shows a logical flow of cause and effect. An action occurs, a reaction to that action follows, having an effect on some other element of the environment, and so on. There should always be a very clear and logical progression of what happens in an action scene.


Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:11 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
A good example of an action sequence is the bank robbery/shootout in Heat.

By the time it happens we've been with the characters long enough to know them. We see humanity in De Niro's character when he gives permission for pregnant or sick people to stand a certain way and informs them that they're there for the bank's money not the customers.

Then when all hell breaks loose, the action is choreographed and staged well. Mann brings the feeling home yet doesn't leave us confused as to where the characters stand in relation to one another. Fortunately there's also no shaky cam. A well-dione action scene with real characters.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:54 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
For me a great example is the freeway chase in Bad Boys 2, the editing is frenetic yes, but in a way that adds to rather then detracts from the scene and it's never difficult to discern what's happening. Compare that to the chase at the end of Bourne Supremacy, which was very messy and confusing to follow and not really all that exciting.


Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:08 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I decided to rewatch the freeway scene in Bad Boys II again, and thought it wasn't bad. Bay was restraining himself (about as much as he can), and the results are passable. It doesn't compare to Ronin, but few films do.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:54 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Ken wrote:
I'd suggest that an action scene is a scene in which the tension is built and resolved primarily through a high level of physical activity.


That's it: An action scene is a depiction of physical activity. It doesn't necessarily require violence. Harold Llyod climbing a clocktower is an action scene as well. Racing scenes are, too.

This rules out suspense scenes such as the tavern scene in Inglorious Basterds.

Most importantly, action scenes have to be exciting and require a sense of urgency to work, which can be based on context (empathy with a character involved) or spectacle (display of exraordinary physical skill, great stunts).


Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:09 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I would like to argue, for simplicity's sake, that car chases be considered a separate entity perhaps part of the larger whole of "action scene" but kept largely apart. Like Scotland and the UK

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:34 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I would argue that the car chase is like the fight scene or the shootout, existing within the larger umbrella of action.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:43 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Ken wrote:
I would argue that the car chase is like the fight scene or the shootout, existing within the larger umbrella of action.


Indeed, but like Scotland. They hate being told they're not a country, even though they obviously aren't. So just don't tell car chases that they're part of action scenes

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:48 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Aye.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:55 pm
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
JamesKunz wrote:
Ken wrote:
I would argue that the car chase is like the fight scene or the shootout, existing within the larger umbrella of action.


Indeed, but like Scotland. They hate being told they're not a country, even though they obviously aren't. So just don't tell car chases that they're part of action scenes


On behalf of my Scottish wife, I'm afraid I'll have to correct you here. By definition (and English is terribly imprecise in this instance), a country is a distinct political geographical entity and, consequently, Scotland is a country (and a nation as well). Scotland is not an independent sovereign state, though. ;)


Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:33 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
We've already been over this. James doesn't like countries that aren't sovereign nations being called countries.

I don't get it either.


Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:40 am
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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Well for my taste there are basically two kinds of action scenes I really enjoy:

1) the ones which are obvioiusly choreographed but with great skill and of course well edited. The outcome must be believable through the action. There are tons of tropes and cliches which should be avoided or at least addressed. The first one is of course: the one-by-one group attack. Why don't they attack all at once? I admit I enjoy stuff like the opening fight of "Transporter 2", because I believe Jason Statham and there are some great ideas paired with humor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WUaDcmfgQc

Jackie Chan also did a lot of fantastic fight scenes, even though they are more focussed on acrobatics. Yet I think they are great, well choreographed and well framed/edited. Tha famous "mall fight" from "Police story" is a good example.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ2Z8pGWmmg

I am not a fan of the long dragged out fight scenes where people get very hard punches into the face and just the make up changes and they go on and on. Some older westerns have this (and take it seriously). I can't stand it.

2) action scenes which show how physically demanding, unpredictable and dangerous they are. Noone involved has always the upper hand. And there are lots of surprises and punches/stabs which are effectively defended but by tremendous physical effort. Those fight scense leave you exhausted. The example, eralier in this thread, of "Eastern Promises" is a brilliant example. I remember another one (I didn't read through the entire thread - just almost - so I hope this s not redundant:
The knive fight in "The Hunted" between Tommy Leee Jones and Benicio del Toro (perhaps not a brilliant movie, but this one on one fight is rather well made IMHO:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1izw6ZsPSp0

or

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy_utfWemC4


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Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Unke wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
Ken wrote:
I would argue that the car chase is like the fight scene or the shootout, existing within the larger umbrella of action.


Indeed, but like Scotland. They hate being told they're not a country, even though they obviously aren't. So just don't tell car chases that they're part of action scenes


On behalf of my Scottish wife, I'm afraid I'll have to correct you here. By definition (and English is terribly imprecise in this instance), a country is a distinct political geographical entity and, consequently, Scotland is a country (and a nation as well). Scotland is not an independent sovereign state, though. ;)


My point is that you need to have divisions, and if Scotland is a country then so is Hawaii. But here I'm just messing around really. As AJR said, I've fought this battle before.

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