Monday, November 5, 2012

Action, The Killer, Hard Boiled

We are studying Neuroanatomy  and Occlusion during this block.  Thank goodness I took anatomy this Summer!  Nothing has been too bad so far, I don’t think this will really be any different.  I am looking forward to Thanksgiving Break.  I will be reading, writing, studying, getting outdoors, and lounging.  Just need to make sure I pass the next test so I won’t have to be stressed.
Started reading a really good Leonard Cohen biography called “I’m your Man”.  It tends to put Natalie asleep when I read out loud, so whenever I start she starts accusing me of trying to knock her out.  I just thought she would be interested in the Canadian stuff.  Ha ha.  Reading some of his early poems and excerpts of stories…it’s pretty impressive.  It’s like he always could write.
Gonna go see James Bond this weekend.  I loved the first Daniel Craig one, not so keen on the second one.  Supposedly this one will be great.  My expectations are high.
This past week I watched both The Killer and Hard Boiled, directed by John Woo.  I figured since they feature the same actor director and genre I should just watch them in quick succession to get the most out of it.  Watching these films took me back to High School, a time where my brother and I were obsessed with bad action movies and replicating a version of them ourselves.  If we had a free afternoon, the only option for us was to pull out my Dad's clunky old black camera and start piecing together some sort of Kung-Fu movie.  When there were only two of us, one had to hold the camera, and we had to get creative with the action scenes.  In one short in particular, we fight each other without ever being in the same frame even once.  It was an intense shoot out, and ended with the twist that we had been fighting over a pair of high heels.  We also filmed a few with our cousins and friends.  These always turned out the best because, like the Killer and Hard Boiled, the body count could be high.  With just 4 extra people playing multiple people, the henchmen could become infinite.  In every scene, every extra would get killed before the camera would cut away.  Rinse and Repeat.  Although we never pulled out the ketchup to make fake gore, it was clear that we had an unhealthy penchant for violence.
The other funny thing about those early movies we made was that the plot was always just an afterthought.  It was something obligatory only to get you to the next scene where Keith would come at me with some sort of household appliance turned weapon.  In one scene, 4 people were all fighting each other.  Strangely, one was using a thigh master as some sort of bludgeoning device while another was strangling people with a pair of my sister's grey sweatpants.  When choreographing action scenes, we spent time and paid attention to all the details.  We would think about them weeks ahead of time and practice the whole thing long before we hit the record button.  With the editing system we had, you were much better off if you could film all the scenes in order, and preferably only the once.  The story lines, on the other hand, were an off the cuff generic mess.  Generally a secret agent had to infiltrate some base and eventually fight the end boss.  Often there would be a partner who was a double agent on the inside who would join forces with the hero, and usually end up getting killed towards the finale for dramatic effect.  There were just reheated standard plots from the kung-fu and cop movies we had been watching.  The reason I write about all this in conjunction with John Woo's two movies is that if I would have kept making films this way my entire life, I believe I would eventually have become some sort of version of John Woo.  
I understand terrible action movies because of those experiences.  The directors aren't bad or dumb people, they are just overly excited about the action and don't really get an adrenaline rush thinking about character interactions.  They just want to see stuff blow up, like my brother and I did.  These days, I have less appreciation for shoot-em-up style movies if they don't have anything else going for them, but I at least feel like I sympathize with the director’s mania.  To John Woo the action scenes are the art, the rest is all periphery.
He does some cool stuff as well.  Here are some of the things that stuck out:
-The whole final scene of The Killer is great because of the contrast.  Shoot-out in a church, blood on the white suit, blood on flour, doves flying around during the violence…it’s all great.  As a kid I would have loved to come up with stuff like that, I would have thought it was hilarious.  It makes everything so much more dramatic.  Same thing in Hard Boiled, the last scene is in a hospital with crying babies and sick people running for the exit.
-Out of the two movies, I think I preferred Hard Boiled.  Keeping everything I wrote about above in mind, it was because it seemed that Woo was a bit more concerned with making the characters more complex.  Amongst the cops and criminals there are characters with honor and some without.  The Killer tried to build this dynamic, but I didn’t feel like Chow Yun Fat’s character really was all that tragic.  I didn’t feel bad for him as a repentant assassin, and the last scene felt even more videogame like.  There was way more joy in finale of Hard Boiled because of the unexpected nature of some of the character’s actions.
-Watching the movies through my young director’s eyes, I loved all the sliding on the ground shooting scenes.  Or sliding down bannisters.  Or sliding around on gurneys in the morgue.  Or sliding in to a building on a motorcycle and shooting the entire time.  Somebody needs to replicate the slide shoot in some video game.  Best move ever.
-Nobody ever, ever, runs out of bullets. 

Next week is Walkabout.  Stream it on Hulu.    

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