Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Listmania 2012: Best Fights of the Year

As pop culture aficionados, your friends at Culture Blues are not immune to the end-of-year lists currently overwhelming the internet. We just like to wait until the entire year is over before we post anything, in case something cool happens around the holidays (also, we're lazy). Welcome to Listmania, where Culture Blues ranks our favorite shit in a handful categories.

We didn't feel there were enough purely fictional badasses in our 2012 List of Badasses, so we decided to compile a list of the year's best fight scenes. Enjoy some adrenaline fueled list-making, you grimy little pimps!

(10) The Man With the Iron Fists – Brass Body vs. The X-Blade

I couldn’t find a clip of Brass Body pummeling The X-Blade online, which is a shame because it’s really the only decent fight scene in RZA’s sadly disappointing Man With the Iron Fists. While most of RZA’s fight scenes run his wire-fu/anime influences into the ground with results ranging from incoherent to derivative, this alley way encounter is (relatively) no-frills and smartly choreographed. If only everything in Iron Fists could’ve been this visually interesting. Oh, there’s also a BATISTA BOMB, so bonus points for that. (Jeff Hart)

(9) The Dark Knight Rises – Batman vs. Bane

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is not going to be remembered for its fight scenes. They actually kind of suck, but this year’s Dark Knight Rises was definitely an improvement in the hand-to-hand combat category. The first meeting between Batman and Bane features competently choreographed and filmed fisticuffs, but unsurprisingly the real star is the drama. Batman throws all of his strength, agility and Caped Crusader magic tricks at the hulking aspirin-addict, but Bane just shrugs them off and mercilessly beats Wayne while taunting him in that cool voice. It ends with one of cinema’s finest backbreakers and the hero lying wet, defeated and broken. Maybe Nolan knows something about fight scenes after all. (Jeremiah White)

(8) Mad Men - Pete Campbell vs. Lane Pryce

Um, who hasn’t wanted to beat the shit out of Pete Campbell? “You’re a grimy little pimp. I warn you, as soon as I raise my hands, it will be too late to run.” OHHHHHH! Lane Pryce basically snaps a velvet glove right across Pete’s rosy cheeks before rolling up his sleeves and getting down Marquis de Queensberry style. It’s damn satisfying to see Pete’s head snap back repeatedly, to see the tears in his eyes as Don tries to help him up from the carpet. However, in hindsight, this is the beginning of the end for Lane, and just further evidence of the rotten core at SCDP. In the fight for these guys’ souls, everyone’s a loser… but whatever, close the curtains and let ‘em fight! (Jeff Hart)

(7) Chronicle – Final Fight

Ambitious to the point of ridiculousness, the found footage super-hero origin story Chronicle demands near constant suspension of disbelief. It doesn’t always work, especially when it comes to the smaller, more intimate moments of teen angst. But, where Chronicle absolutely dominates, is in its gangbusters final fight sequence between two omega-level telekinetics. It’s like the end of a fireworks show, with the filmmakers throwing everything in their bag of tricks at the audience. Grainy cell phone video is cut together with police car dashboard footage (which then goes topsy-turvy when the car is flipped over), followed by the sound dropping out as we switch over to black-and-yellow security video. Disorienting, thrilling, and surprisingly emotional - it’s a masterful sequence of clever action editing. (Jeff Hart)

(6) The Walking Dead – Glenn vs. A zombie

Individual zombies are at a fundamental disadvantage when going up against able bodied living folks, but Glenn suddenly found himself as the underdog when he was tied to a chair and locked in a room with one of the undead. The quick, economic scene makes good use of tight, cluttered quarters and tells a clear story as Glenn creates some space, frees himself, and finishes the zombie off just in time. The zombies of TWD are less of a threat the more Rick and company see them, and they’re currently playing second fiddle to bad guys with pulses, but this scene made them dangerous again. With all that tension, Glenn’s feral scream that takes us to commercial is a perfect way to end it. (Jeremiah White)

(5) Safe House – Glass Fight

When The Bourne Legacy arrived in theaters this summer, it lacked the one thing I really look forward to in Bourne adventures: two lethal government agents beating the shit out of each other with improvised weapons in a domestic environment. Luckily, Safe House provided an uglier, messier version of that in February when Ryan Reynolds and that dude from The Killing engaged in a hard-hitting, deep-cutting brawl we affectionately refer to as Glass Fight, although it’s really less a fight and more an animalistic struggle for survival. Suck it, Jeremy Renner. (Jeremiah White)

(4) Haywire – Carano vs. Fassbender

Steven Soderbergh’s ode to Gina Carano features plenty of great action, but it’s never better than when Carano and Michael Fassbender are bouncing each other off walls and furniture in a swanky hotel suite. The characters’ personalities and stature play into contrasting styles (Carano mixes in judo tosses and MMA chokes while Fassbender brandishes room service cutlery and rams Carano into things) that give the scene personality. It owes a lot to the Bourne fights (right down to the lack of music), but the long takes from fixed cameras craft a more grown-up, elegant affair. Hence the formal wear. (Jeremiah White)

(3) Avengers - Hulk vs. Thor

I don’t usually go in for overly CGI’ed fight scenes, and especially don’t get very excited when one of the combatants is just a green video game blob. However, after three failed movies without a memorable action scene between them, Joss Whedon was finally the guy to figure out how to do the Hulk right. It certainly helps that Banner has a larger-than-life but human-faced opponent in Thor, which makes this a more interesting sequence to watch than the usual Hulk-Smash-tank nonsense. With all the crashing through walls and chucking jet wings at each other, this might be the closest approximation to a big comic splash-page brawl ever brought to the screen. (Jeff Hart)

(2) Sleepless Night – Kitchen Fight

Don’t sleep on the French when it comes to vicious, bone-rattling action sequences. This vicious knockdown drag-out between a crooked cop and a slightly less crooked cop is a marathon of l’ownage. This YouTube clip I’m linking to? That’s just the middle of the fight – just the sample is two minutes long and these guys are going to find even more shit in that kitchen to smash each other with. Sleepless Night is all about exhaustion, all about pushing oneself beyond physical and moral limits, but this fight scene will have you willing the characters to just stay the hell down. (Jeff Hart)


(1) The Raid – Handicap Match

This Indonesian offering (the second collaboration between director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais, following Merantau) features the fastest, best choreographed and downright most exciting martial arts scenes in recent memory, and it all culminates in this epic battle pitting a pair of brothers against a crime boss’ wild and vicious enforcer Mad Dog (he’s fantastic). The uncommon 2-on-1 set-up allows for unusual exchanges and ensures that the action is literally nonstop (it’s exhausting just to watch). There’s no preening, no boasting, no taunting. Just 5 and a half minutes of three guys fighting in an empty room (which equals like a billion punches and kicks at this breakneck pace). The fighting starts off fast and furious, and only grows more frenzied and violent. But no matter how acrobatic or outlandish the moves get, the stakes still feel real as this marathon builds to a thoroughly satisfying dramatic conclusion with assistance from the throbbing crescendo in Mike Shinoda’s score. It’s a thrilling, and draining, end to one of the best action movies in years. (Jeremiah White)

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1 Responses »

  1. Really glad The Raid got the top spot. Holy crap that movie is badass.