G-S-T Quick 5 – Best Action Melee Scenes

Let’s face it, when we walk into an action movie, we don’t want realism. We want our hero to be “10 feet tall and bulletproof“. We want him/her to know tons of bone crunching self-defense, walk through a battle unscathed and maybe, just maybe, if we’ve suspended all our disbelief, our hero will be able to walk on water. Now as action films go, pushing the envelope is a requirement, nay, obligation and most times, despite the lunacy of what happening on-screen, we always think bigger and better is the way to go…except in Transformers 2.

Yet for as long as films have had that genre defining high action content, you’d think filmmakers would have come up with every conceivable way to “off a guy”. Well that’s what makes going to the movies so much fun, isn’t it? To see how someone did something never done before. While there are long droughts of unoriginal battle scenes, sometimes a film comes along with truly new, inventive, and completely illogical way to dispose of said baddies which makes it a joy to see it in the theater.

So I’ve visited my Sacred Shelves, consulted with our nearly non-existent editors, and come up with 5 purely outrageous melee scenes that get high points for style, originality and (to some degree) lethality. Submitted for your approval (and comments are highly encouraged), in no particular order, here are the G-S-T Quick 5 – Best Action Melee Scenes:


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Equilibrium – In the wake of that film involving something called “The Matrix”, Equilibrium had some big shoes to fill. Being released not long after the adventures of Neo, Equilibrium stood out with a great story, a slick (albeit dismal) looking future about a legion of Clerics protecting the newly minted (post apocalyptic) utilitarian government. No one could touch these warriors as they, having studied hundreds of recorded gun fights are history’s most lethal and efficient peace keepers. The film sports some serious, non-wire fighting ass-kicking but the hallway scene at the end earns this film the top spot for its melee overload!!

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Wanted – In the world of cinema, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Wanted takes the best gun scenes of our number 1 spot and actually expands on them to create its own brand of stylistic shoot-em-upery! Yeah, I made up that term but if they can make up curving a bullet, then I can take creative liberties too. The 10 minute action scene at the end was one of the quickest, most adrenaline packed sequences I’ve ever seen…except for Equilibrium of course.

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The Matrix Reloaded – As The Matrix had nothing but incredible melee scenes (specifically the lobby scene at the end) but if you want an all out slug fest, look no further than the fabled 100 Agent Smith fight. Some would claim that this scene’s cuts to a purely CGI environment aren’t as successful in selling the impact of the fight. To those people, I ask “does it matter??”. When it was in theaters, the CGI was so convincing that most people didn’t notice the switch until the movie was out on DVD…and I saw it on IMAX and still couldn’t tell! Just because the really complex stuff was done with CG models, all of it was still choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping and the result was 6 plus minutes of AWESOME! Also, those “brace yourself” slow-motion slow downs (before each succeeding Agent Smith was thrown, sent flying, or used as a weapon against the other 99 Smiths) just enhanced the already epic battle. Woah, indeed!

Also, the badass Chateau fight is 1000% dope as well…check it out too!

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300 – Wow, just wow. This movie was a feature-length music video of melee and metal (the music and the armor that is). Having the wildly popular graphic novel to use as source material, the comic’s plot only  served to communicate a narrative between the truly jaw dropping fight scenes. Leonidas will go down as one of the greatest film heroes and his following 299 Spartans will be right there with him. A ballet of blood, and broken bones, the entire Battle of Thermopylae is both awe-inspiring and action packed. From the very first scuffle with Xerxes’ weakest minions, the movie let the audience know what kind of movie they were in store for. Again, slow motion used to heighten the scenes, the multiple dances of death in 300 should be viewed with incredible reverence. So Leonidas, tonight you dine in hell,huh?…tell me, is that 3 or 4 course meal? Sign me up, I’ll be right behind you:P

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Watchmen – Another Zack Snyder masterpiece (and the 3rd Warner Brothers property here) Watchmen found new ways to make opponents pay in brawl after brawl. Compared to the others on this list Watchmen may appear a bit tame with much less action overall, but the severity of the blows given are enough to make the viewers hurt just by watching this. Granted Watchmen was more about story than stylized action (though it had a good amount of it), but just thinking about the beatings doled out in that jail fight (and the alley scene too, omph) still makes me wince.

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Honorable Mentions – It was hard enough keeping this list to a select 5, I do have to call attention to the cringe-inducing and flat-out crazy hammer scene in Chan-wook Park‘s  Oldboy. To this day it hurts just thinking about the damage in that sequence. To make it all the more impressive, it was done real-time, without wires, CGI and all in one take. More like “Oh Boy” if you ask me:) Also, for Liam Neeson getting up there in age, he was just amazing in pretty much every scene of  Taken…even doing most of the convincing fight scenes himself!

So that’s what I like and love to watch…especially when it is one continuous ass-whooping unfolding on screen. How about the rest of you? What are your favorite bone-crunching, kick-ass, all-out melee scenes??

Comments

  1. Castor says

    Great list! Some really great melee action scenes there. Glad to see Equilibrium in there. Not a great movie by any means but a solid watch and the action sequences are pretty damn cool. The Wanted scene is so over-the-top it makes me laugh 😉

    • Thanks Castor! When a film does it right, it is really one for the ages. Melee at it’s best is worth praising:)

      Wanted is supposed to be jaw dropping not for being serious but more for the shock at the lunacy of what’s unfolding. I laugh too:)

  2. Heather says

    Fantastic list, especially Equilibrium.

    Another few other goodies of mine are the apartment fight scene in The Bourne Identity, Achilles Vs. Hector, Aragorn Vs. Lurtz, and Darth Maul Vs. Obi Wan

    I love these kind of lists. It makes you want to pull out those movies and watch them right away.

    • Figured I’d get your attention giving Equilibrium another mention:P While those are great fight scenes, to me melee is a non stop ass-whooping warpath, not just great fighting between 2 equally skilled characters. But I agree with you 110%, just naming these movies make you want to drop all you’re doing and have an action marathon. Though, if I did that I’d be on the couch all the time and never get anything done…

    • Have to agree with Heather here. The apt fight scenes in the Bourne films are great, they look so natural and feel so spontaneous. It’s amazing how many films have been influenced by The Matrix, you would have look far and wide to find some fresh fight sequences that didn’t remind you of any number of the fights in the Matrix.

      The double light-sabre fight with Darth Maul in Phantom Menace is my fabourite part of that film (as well as the bit where Liam Neeson says: “There’s always a bigger fish”), it felt so original. Plus he had a DOUBLE Light-saber… DOUBLE!!!

      • Bourne (the first one) was decidedly effen awesome! But I did not like the shakey camera work on the rest of the series…kind of killed it for me.

        While it was wild, it also felt very cold and rehearsed. I mean, if he was so angry his master was killed, would he have hopped around looking very choreographed. Admittedly I do love that scene and the 2 lightsabers was groundbreaking to the series, but didn’t rank hight enough with me to make my list.

  3. The Christian Bale thing gets me every time, it does…

    • Few people walk through an obvious death sentence unscathed, but he does it with style:!

  4. Holy shit, man. I might go so far as to put Oldboy at #1. Too many movies rely on fast cuts, guns and special effects to put together fights. That shit was raw, epic and beyond badass since it was all bareknuckle. Wasn’t a big fan of that Matrix Reloaded fight since it seemed so computer generated, but the freeway chase scene was the bomb. So was all of Equilibrium. Good picks though. I dig this list.

    • True editing and effects do take promenence over legitimate single cut acting, but Oldboy was one that defied the odds. Sooo damn good and while my list was replete with CG and the like, Oldboy should be higher. But that’s why I lumped it with Taken since they’re among the more realistic scenes, so to speak.

      As far as Reloaded, God yes, that freeway scene is AWESOME!!! And P.S., it’s even prettier on Blu Ray…recommended:)

  5. Awesome list, Marc! Major points for including Leonidas’ ballet of death and Bale’s Equillibrium. I have to admit I’ve watched the two movies a lot despite my aversion for bloody scenes. The alley scene in Watchmen was really too much for me to watch in the theater, I had to cover up my ears to dim those bone-cracking scenes.

    One that deserves a place here is Kill Bill, especially the Bride’s brutal & ridiculous fight scene leading up to the showdown with O-Ren Ishii at the end. Crazy!

    • Well you being a sucker for Gerry aside, that movie stands on it’s own. Stylistic and bad ass:powerful combination! Like I wrote in the post, those crunches in Watchmen make me wince every time…glad I’m not the only one.

      Wow, I forgot, Kill Bill was nothing but melee scenes…with so many great ones, it would be had to pick unless you made an all Kill Bill list:)

  6. even though it went against every fibre in my body, i thought Wanted was great. James McAvoy’s action-man face is the type of gurn we’d all pull.
    good to see him and Marc Warren together again after their State Of Play days. if you get the chance watch it.

    • I think I’ll check it out. Thanks for the suggestion McG! Not sure if you’ve seen it (and he wasn’t in it very much) but Marc Warren was in Green Street Hooligans, which I thought was awesome (Off the Shelf review coming soon, fyi)

  7. is it really called Green Street Hooligans stateside?
    just Green Street over here
    mind you, we got California Man instead of Encino Man
    obviously cos we’re dumb

    • Yup, and why call it that when in the movie they call themselves Green Street Elite?…oh that’s right, when you market internationally you market to the lowest common denominator:P

  8. Thanks for the Honorable Mention on Oldboy. Really a fantastic movie with even better action. I was quite shocked when I saw it, the other two in the series never really lived up to this.

    • Haven’t seen the other two but now I don’t think I have to…so thanks right back at you:)

  9. Great list, Marc. Man, I wish I’d remembered Wanted when I did my Top Ten Fight Scenes. That was a brilliant sequence.

    I wasn’t so impressed with that Matrix scene. The CGI was too obvious and the movie as a whole was pretty pompous. Equilibrium is a good choice and I loved Watchmen.

    • I see what you mean but as far as balls out insane I didn’t mind the CG especially since I didn’t realize they swapped out the real Keanu for a CG one until I watched it the second time at home…and I saw it on IMAX! How could I miss that?:P