The Jackie Chan Formula
Better than Michael Bay, better than the Wachowski Brothers, and even better than Christopher Nolan. Yes, even with everything brilliant that Mr. Nolan did with Batman, his ability to direct a fight scene pales in comparison to Jackie Chan.
I recently had an excuse to revisit Police Force and Drunken Master II. And let me tell you, if the only Jackie Chan movies you've ever seen had Chris Tucker or Jennifer Love Hewitt in them, you have no idea how amazing Jackie Chan can be.
It may have something to with Hollywood insurance and that he's no young buck anymore, but all of Jackie Chan's masterpieces were made long before he became the Asian Nick Nolte.
Take a look at the fight scenes in films like Police Force, The Legend of Drunken Master, and Super Cop. They're amazing. And there's still nothing out there that compares.
There are a couple of tricks that JC has figured out that make his fight scenes so awesome:
1. The Nice Guy. Jackie Chan's characters are never stoic bad-ass kung-fu masters. They are basically Asian Jimmy Stewarts -- nice guys that end up in a mess and try their darnedest to get out of it. This is immensely important, but action directors always miss this. A bad-ass kung-fu master eats ninjas for breakfast. He might as well just be playing croquet. A nice guy hates to fight, isn't that great at it, and gets beat up a lot. He has to struggle to win. And watching a struggle is much more interesting than watching a croquet game.
This is exactly why Jackie Chan likes to make fun of himself. Bad-asses never look stupid, because then they stop being bad-ass. Jackie Chan makes fun of himself so we know he's vulnerable, and fallible just like us. That way, when he does win a fight, it's way more amazing.
5. The Cornered Animal aka Beet Face. This is the book-end to The Nice Guy. While JC always likes to play the nice guy, he's always a nice guy that by the climax of the film is pushed to the boiling point. JC knows that if you start with an awesome fight scene you have to finish with an awesomer fight scene. The first fight scene will be the nice guy scrambling for survival, and final fight scene will be the nice guy transformed into cornered animal who destroys everything in his path. You can always tell when a JC movie reaches this point because his face turns bright red ( or purple in the case of Drunken Master 2) and he gets really, really pissed.
The final fight scene in Drunken Master 2 is a great example of all of thee above, and probably the greatest fight scene of all time. Please partake: