This week I was sitting around bored and Rocky IV happened to pop on Spike. Rocky IV is totally rad. For those of y'all that aren't Americans or history majors, it is a well known fact that Rocky Balboa's defeat of Ivan Drago in Moscow in 1985 singlehandedly ended the Cold War. After all if he could change, we all could change. If the final rounds of the epic Balboa-Drago clash is on tv I'm immediately gonna stop what I'm doing and take a seat. Anyways watching Rocky IV got me thinking, whatever happened to epic fighting movies?
Back in the day fight movies were all the rage. There was the Rocky series. There was "Kickboxer" and "Bloodsport," and "Lionheart." There was "Best of the Best." There was the Karate Kid trilogy (I don't acknowledge any Karate Kids without the Miyagi/Russo tandem). Then a bunch of asshole execs in Hollywood decided to stop making these brilliant films. WHY? These movies were awesome. Although all these movies didn't have the EXACT same plot, they were all pretty much based around the same basic themes. Since Hollywood has apparently forgotten the flawless formula to an epic fight movie, I will now present it.
1. Tragedy Strikes
The hero in every fight movie is a reluctant warrior. He needs some sort of motivation to get himself in the ring and pummel somebody. So generally somebody close to him has to die or at the very least get crippled at the beginning of the movie. Ideally this tragedy is caused by the very same asshole that he will meet in the ring for a final epic battle. Think Kurt Sloane's brother getting crippled in "Kickboxer." Balboa having to deal with the tragic deaths of Mickey and then Apollo in back to back Rocky flicks. I guess there wasn't really a tragedy in the Karate Kid series other than the fact that Elizabeth Shue was somehow dating Danny Russo. Whatever, moving on.
2. A Super Evil Villain
If you're gonna go out and fight somebody they might as well be a total dickhead. Somebody that fights dirty. Somebody with no morals whatsoever. Somebody that will stop at nothing to prevail in the ring, even if it means putting somebody in a wheelchair or a body bag. A complete fucking asshole. Remember what Ivan Drago says as Apollo is lying bloody and motionless on the canvas? "If he dies.....he dies." What a cock. You just killed a dude in an exhibition match you Commie bastard. The Cobra Kai in Karate Kid? Total pricks. Their DoJo instructor actually told his kids to snap people's legs in a youth karate tournament. That's like a little league coach telling his pitcher to bean members of the other team in the head. I never understood how every single douchebag kid in the valley managed to find the DoJo led by an asshole karate master in Karate Kid btw. Seemed like a pretty random coincidence.
3. An Older, Wiser Mentor/Trainer
Mr. Myagi is the most obvious example of this of course. A crazy old kook with unorthodox training methods is always needed in order for a fighter to succeed. What he's putting you through may not make sense now, but at some point it will assist you in the wrong. He's not making you scrub fences for the hell of it Daniel-San. He's teaching you how to block punches. Mickey didn't make Rocky chase chickens in the street for his own amusement. He was developing Balboa's quickness so he could stick and move with more athletic black dudes. Frank Dux in "Bloodsport" had a crazy old chinese dude who used to make him practice blindfolded. Well that seems pretty retarded. Yeah...until Chong Li fucking blinds you in the ring and you are forced to defeat him by maximizing your other senses. Without a looney old dude training you, or at least a veteran mentor (think Apollo in Rocky 3) you will not succeed in battle against a bigger, stronger, evil opponent.
4. A MONTAGE
An epic fight movie without a montage is like a Tyler Perry movie without a cookout. You HAVE to have a montage. If possible you should have multiple montages. Montages are key in a fight movie because they show the audience every stage of a fighter's development from unprepared amateur to pure human killing machine. Normally when you think of how a fighter prepares for a match, you think gym, weight lifting, punching bag. Yeah well when you're preparing to fight a 6-6 psycho on steroids you need to put a little extra into your training regimen. You have to go running somewhere in public for sure. Preferrably through the broken down back streets of your city. In the cold. With a hoodie on. If possible run through the snowy mountains of Siberia in sub zero temperatures. You also use primitive training equipment. You don't lift weights, you lift giant logs. You don't punch bags, you punch blocks of wood and bricks. A fight movie montage is always set to a totally Rad rock pump up jam about fighting to be the best, or fighting to survive, or having a fire burning inside you.
5. An EPIC Final Battle
You would think that after being inspired by tragedy, trained by an old man, and running through mountains and carrying wood you are actually overprepared for your matchup with the gigantic villainous asshole you're finally facing. Yeah right. The whole reason you needed every bit of your unorthodox training regimen was because this fight was going to be fucking EPIC. No hero in a fight movie just walks in and knocks out the asshole they're facing in the second round. Initially in the final battle of a fight movie, our warrior actually seems completely overmatched. He's totally getting his ass beat. He can't block any punches. Every blow he lands does nothing to his opponent. You can tell he has been secluded out in the mountains, punching bricks blindfolded rather than like...actually sparring with people.
Then however, he remembers why he is here. He thinks back to the tragedy this asshole caused. He hears his trainer/or fallen compadre cheering him on in his head. He realizes he didn't put in this much work to come up here and go out like a chump. So he gets up off the canvas and goes FUCKING BONKERS. He lands combo after combo. He dodges every punch. His opponent realizes that all the physical ability in the world can't defeat HEART. The crowd notices just how much heart this warrior has, and no matter who they initially put money on, now they are cheering for him. He knocks giant super asshole the fuck out and emerges victorious. The movie closes with him pumping his fist in the air in a still shot. Montage pump up jam comes on. Roll credits.
There you have it. Five easy steps to creating the perfect epic fight movie. Follow these directions Hollywood, and you will not fail. Now somebody get out there and make me a movie where fists and roundhouse kicks are flying in the ring. I don't wanna see a movie about rap battles. I don't want to watch a movie where rival gangs have dance-off showdowns. I want a fight movie. I want A FUCKING MONTAGE.