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The Best Action Scenes of 2021

A survey of the year’s best action scenes ranging from anime to Marvel, Scott Adkins to Benny Chan, and South Korea to India.
Jonah Jeng
Another year, another bountiful crop of action filmmaking. The following article covers some of the best. Like with last year’s installment, the focus will be on action scenes—compact, heightened expressions of action filmmaking craft—rather than films as a whole, which means that some otherwise strong, action-adjacent pictures may be missing (e.g., Wrath of Man, Don’t Breathe 2, Karnan, Old Henry) and a couple included films look fairly lackluster beyond their set pieces (e.g., Kate). For the sake of variety, I have limited myself to one scene per film, and all featured films made their official, non-festival, U.S. theatrical and/or streaming debut in 2021. The criterion of “official” excludes the Chinese direct-to-YouTube actioner One More Shot, which was removed after just a few days online. Whenever the film receives a more “legitimate” stateside debut, it will almost certainly be included in that year’s roundup. 
And now, to the action. The scenes have been organized into loose thematic groupings to enhance ease of perusal and highlight stylistic/thematic patterns.
For many action fans, one of the year’s most anticipated events was the two-part conclusion to the live-action Rurouni Kenshin series, which is based on the manga of the same name. Although both parts contain action worth remarking upon, the set pieces in Rurouni Kenshin: The Final are greater in quantity, scale, and inventiveness and capture the series’ distinctive action style, courtesy of action director Kenji Tanigaki. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the series’ action—which, in The Final, peaks in the climactic fight (01:09:23 - 01:21:01 in the film)—is how fast it moves. Blades whip and dart with cobra-like speed; fighters leap and skid almost as swiftly; and the handheld camera nimbly shifts and pivots to track characters’ quicksilver movements—all this speed leads to it being sometimes difficult to keep up with what’s going on. Replay any segment of the fight, however, and it becomes clear that the action hasn’t been staged in a deliberately vague or obscurantist way. Closer inspection reveals the precise capturing of specific and varied choreographic beats that conveys a sense of characters’ detail-oriented, moment-to-moment strategizing, their reacting to each other in a dance of combat. Given this demonstrative grounding in intricate choreography—whose legibility is aided by both staccato sound design synced to on-screen blows and moments of sudden, cathartic clarity like a bout of slow motion or a piece of furniture being spectacularly destroyed—the impression of overwhelming agility comes to suggest not the film’s deficiency but our own in the face of warriors moving virtually at the speed of thought.
The Rurouni Kenshin influence is felt strongly in The Swordsman, but the latter’s stylistic approach is a bit different, tending to slightly decelerate the choreography to more conventional levels (i.e., still very fast) and reining in the former's flitting camerawork in favor of steadier shots. This formal tendency persists into the film’s most virtuosic set-piece (01:09:21 – 01:11:49 in the film), except the scene’s centerpiece revolves around a stylistic anomaly: a single, unbroken shot of our protagonist (Jang Hyuk) cutting down a bevy of gun-wielding opponents. Shifting fluidly between “real-time” and slow motion, the shot keeps the camera in the immediate orbit of our hero, positing him as the fight’s gravitational center and a force so powerful that he’s practically manipulating spacetime itself.
The year’s most ostentatious pairing of the long take with the figure of the swordsman, however, can be found in Crazy Samurai Musashi, which features an over 70-minute-long shot of cult icon Tak Sakaguchi felling literally hundreds of opponents (the likelihood of a few masked cuts does little to undermine the impressiveness of the technical achievement, since dividing 70 by three or four still results in some very long takes). As I discussed in my piece on the film, the single-take conceit confers a sense of intense physicality, of viewer and protagonist kinaesthetically linked through an experience of shared, exhausting duration. The resulting repetitiveness is both the film’s weakness and strength, and this quality extends into the film’s fight choreography: in lieu of showier maneuvers, the film foregrounds the tactical pragmatism of quick, rote attacks, which give the impression of a seasoned warrior fighting smart rather than hard, conserving energy for the very long haul of the battle. The single-take approach precludes easy demarcation of “scenes,” but the segment that perhaps best captures the tenor of the overall film—along with cinematographer Yasutaka Nagano’s intuitive eye for dynamically tracking fighters’ movements—occurs toward the final stretch of the film in which weary warriors cross blades before a stone arch (roughly 01:00:43 – 01:14:44 in the film).
One advantage of the long take is its conduciveness to conveying tactical space—the arrayment of obstacles and objectives within a three-dimensional environment that characters can then strategically navigate. The latest collaboration between director James Nunn and star Scott Adkins, two stalwarts of American direct-to-video action, make full use of the technique’s potential in this regard. Titled One Shot to convey both the narrative stakes and the driving conceit of the single take, the film tracks a team of Navy SEALs as they attempt to transport a prisoner off a black site island facility overrun by mercenaries with an opposing agenda. Much of the film hinges on a three-dimensional mapping of space—e.g., where different buildings within the prison compound are located relative to each other, how to get from Point A to Point B, the staging of shootouts into depth (e.g., gun fired in foreground, assailant felled in distant background)—but arguably the most effective moments also get the camera itself more involved. In a close-quarters shootout (01:20:33 – 01:23:14 in the film), for example, the camera does not simply “frame” the action idly, but, rather, jerks, swerves, and pivots with the movement of bodies. This segment captures the best of both worlds: both the tactical clarity of a mapped space and the visceral feeling of being pleasurably pulled along with the characters, as if we were participating in the action ourselves.
A sense of tactical efficiency infuses the action in Outside the Wire in a somewhat counterposed way. If Crazy Samurai Musashi and One Shot achieve this impression through the refusal of cuts, Outside the Wire proliferates the number of cuts to depict a scene in which an android super-soldier single-handedly takes out a group of terrorists (01:22:49 – 01:23:55 in the film). Without entirely foregoing a sense of geography—trusty continuity principles like match-on-action editing and consistent screen direction are largely adhered to—the rapid cutting conveys the superhuman speeds at which the android processes information and acts on it. With shots tending to capture discrete, decisive actions—grabbing a fresh gun magazine from a pinned attacker’s ammo pack, kicking shut a car door to crush another opponent—and the quick cutting compressing space and time over against the long take’s durational approach, the scene stylistically evokes the algorithmic agility of a synthetic entity processing and deleting flesh-and-blood bodies like they were abstract data points.
Strategy and tactics—a plan of attack and its forced adaptation to in-the-moment contingency—fundamentally concerns narrative: what to do and in what order, and how to restore equilibrium when things go sideways. In both Born a Champion, director Alex Ranarivelo and star and martial artist Sean Patrick Flannery’s ode to Brazilian Jujitsu, and Bruised, director and star Halle Berry’s tale of a disgraced MMA fighter’s attempt to turn her life around, narrative plays a big role not only in the slow-burn establishment of dramatic stakes but in the unfolding of the films’ fights, which hinge on a sense of sequentiality, of the order in which each punch, kick, or grappling maneuver occurs and how the opponent tries or fails to recover or extricate themselves from it. To achieve this effect—most powerfully realized in the climactic fights of both films (01:33:49 – 01:45:22 in Born a Champion; 01:41:07 – 01:53:37 in Bruised)—the films assiduously deploy continuity editing to convey their respective fights’ blow-by-blow development. Clear shot framing helps us discern what specific moves are being used, and, in tried-and-true sports-movie fashion, remarks by commentators help further “narrate” the action for us. 
The evergreen premise of the embattled super-assassin links several of the year’s preeminent action films. In Nobody and Kate, this plot device serves as a pretext for the kind of vigorous, stunts-heavy combat that the films’ shared production company 87North—which is helmed by Kelly McCormick and John Wick (2014) co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch—has made its calling card. Although neither achieves an action style as distinctive as the John Wick films, both largely reproduce that series’ tightrope walk between grace and heaviness, evincing both a sense of choreographic elegance and violence that feels physically punishing. 
In Nobody, the exemplary moment is a messy, gnarly bus fight in which Bob Odenkirk’s freshly out-of-retirement hitman instigates a brawl with drunken goons on a bus (00:24:56 – 00:32:15 in the film). Here, moments of vigorous impact—a beer bottle breaking against someone’s head, the appearance of a punch-in-the-face literally connecting thanks to skillful visual blocking—are frequently captured sans cuts, lending physical weight to the action by making it seem like the fighters are real bodies with real weapons in real danger to each other. Furthermore, fight coordinators Daniel Bernhardt and Kirk A. Jenkins ingeniously have Odenkirk’s character take a few hits and lurch clumsily around to convey the rustiness and age of an erstwhile maestro who’s been out of the game for too long and for whom victory is no sure thing (i.e., bad for him, good for movie suspense). 
In Kate, a scene in which the eponymous assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) faces off against Yakuza in a teahouse (00:27:00 – 00:29:33 in the film) hinges on similar stylistic strategies. Like with Nobody, the one-stunt-one-take approach is widely used (e.g., a neck being stabbed or a face being smashed through glass sans any intervening cuts) and the protagonist’s outsized skill is compromised by her being in a weakened state (the culprit in this case being poison). Kate’s distinguishing aspect lies in the almost entirely grayscale mise-en-scène, which shifts the scene intriguingly in the direction of abstraction: less a specific time and place, more the form and trajectory of bodies before a blank canvas.
If there was one film from this year that felt like an 87North picture all but in name, it would be The Protégé. Directed by Martin Campbell of Casino Royale (2006) and The Foreigner (2017), the film shares Kate’s and Nobody’s commitment to cleanly captured, stunts-driven action. In the film’s most thrilling fight, in which romantically entangled enemies (Maggie Q and Michael Keaton) flirt-fight in an apartment (01:06:31 – 01:09:34 in the film), the film stylistically matches its 87North counterparts: visual framing is steady, affording clear views of specific moves, and the moments of forceful impact that punctuate the fighting—a close-up of a shotgun blast punching through a fridge door, a glass table shattering under the combined weight of two bodies—infuse the larger choreographic flow with satisfying staccato impact.
In the most virtuosic set piece from Deliver Us From Evil, the scale of action is expanded, with the number of assailants multiplied to the point where they swarm a cramped hotel stairwell like gun-toting roaches (01:27:20 – 01:29:14 in the theatrical cut, although it would be worth seeking out the extended cut, which contains a prolonged version of the scene). Tracking our entrapped hero (Hwang Jung-min), the camera heightens the sense of besiegement by staging action into depth, underscoring the fact that attackers are encroaching not only laterally but from virtually all directions in three-dimensional space; this z-axis staging is made extra emphatic through the scene’s use of longer takes. Simultaneously, the camerawork further pulls us into the scene kinaesthetically via dynamic whip-pans and whip-tilts that track thrown punches and careening bodies, making us feel like we are hitter, hit, and bystander, all at once.
If a feeling of physical heaviness and power infuses the scenes discussed in this section thus far, The Fable 2: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill, the second installment of the live-action manga adaptation centering on a legendary hitman (Jun’ichi Okada) who’s been instructed to abstain from killing for a full year, counterbalances this impression with a sense of preternatural agility. Although the meat of its runtime comprises a whiplash-inducing mix of broad comedy and brooding tragic melodrama, the film features two elaborate action set pieces, each of which could have easily made it onto this list. My personal preference skews slightly toward the first (00:03:16 – 00:06:26 in the film), in which our protagonist attempts to save the passenger of a careening car whose deceased driver’s foot is jammed against the accelerator. In this scene, quick punchy cutting confers a sense of staccato impact and the split-second decision-making that the breakneck scenario demands, but the framing is precise such that numerous shots—short though they are—still convey the realness of the stunts. Half a second is all we need to gain the impression of our hero actually dangling off the side of an actual moving vehicle as it makes an actual hairpin turn, his shoes skidding perilously on the pavement.
Strictly speaking, Sentinelle does not really belong in this section, given that its protagonist—a haunted ex-soldier (Olga Kurylenko) embarking on a mission of vengeance—comes from the opposite side of the law. That said, given the film’s focus on a lone, rogue operative maneuvering extralegally to take down powerful enemies, it feels kindred with the other members of this section even as, stylistically, a degree of difference is maintained. In lieu of the other films’ more “stylized” presentation—punchy needle drops, neon-drenched mise-en-scène, et cetera—the action in Sentinelle shifts toward an almost direct-cinema aesthetic that leans heavily on handheld camerawork and the minimal and unassuming use of extra-diegetic music. These tendencies converge in the film’s most vicious set piece: a fight in a hospital basement between our heroine and an assassin (00:56:59 – 00:58:59 in the film). Here, the pseudo direct-cinema touches—e.g., the sound of yelling and labored breathing in place of a musical score, the visible bobbing of the handheld camera—lend a sense of physical exertion and immediacy without sacrificing formal precision. Even as the use of whip pans feel like emulations of an improvisatory, documentary-like style, for example, they are also palpably synced to specific choreographic beats.
If Sentinelle represents one extreme of 2021’s action crop, extending the ideal of stunts- and practical-effects-driven set pieces toward a certain “realism,” the films in this section tend toward the opposite extreme in their narrative and stylistic emphasis on cosmic hugeness. Arguably the most emblematic example is Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the director’s cut of the truncated, much-maligned 2018 version. Hairs can be split regarding the extent to which this new cut “counts” as a 2021 release; my opinion is that the abundance of new footage (the extended cut almost doubles the original’s runtime) more than warrants the “Snyder Cut” being labeled a new release. And as long as an action scene has been edited and/or extended in a substantial way, I similarly count it as being “of” 2021. Out of these, the most striking set pieces capture the supernatural speed and strength of the film’s godlike protagonists, and none do so better than the scene in which Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) thwarts a terrorist takeover of a bank (00:17:30 – 00:25:17 in the film). Here, the heroine’s power is underscored through the principle of contrast. Whereas other scenes feature relatively evenly matched cosmic beings facing off, here, Wonder Woman’s outsized strength and speed are accentuated vis-à-vis her opponents’ comparative slowness and fragility. Slow motion affords views of her effortlessly deflecting bullets, whereas segments in “real time” involve a proportional acceleration on her part: we see her zip from henchman to henchman in a blur of movement, and, when struck, bodies hurtle into the distant background like rag dolls launched from a cannon.
A sense of one character’s disproportionate power likewise drives the show-stopping climax in the most surprising entry on this list. James Wan’s Malignant, which centers on the strange psychic connection between our protagonist (Annabelle Wallis) and a monstrous serial killer, seems at first to be unequivocally aligned with the horror fare that put Wan on the map. Once the climax hits (01:35:06 – 01:38:34 in the film), however, the film abruptly pivots to an action-packed register that feels more akin to Wan’s Aquaman (2018). Peaking with an astonishing long take whose wide-angle lensing incurves the frame’s edges as if orienting the entire visual field toward the horror monster as its gravitational center (a similar cinematographic style can be found in Aquaman’s first action scene), this set piece abounds with clear capturing of choreographic beats; spectacular impalements and dismemberments that punchily punctuate the action’s flow; and the persistent sight gag of the monster itself, whose gait and design evoke both the spider walk from The Exorcist (1973) and Ringu’s (1998) damp-haired Sadako, but, when inserted into so athletic and energetic a fight scene, brilliantly acquires an air of slapstick.
Another film that revolves around monster mayhem is The Tomorrow War, the global warming fable about present-day civilians being conscripted by the future to wage war against creatures that are revealed to have emerged from the polar ice caps. Said creatures are not particularly original from a design standpoint, but what they lack in originality, they make up for in quantity. A quivering, shrieking, rhinoceros-sized mass of legs, tentacles, dripping slime and barracuda-like teeth, they command attention by dint of the sheer visual pandemonium they bring whenever they’re onscreen. The scene that takes fullest advantage of the creatures’ chaotic morphology depicts an attempt to capture the species’ queen within her own nest (01:05:47 – 01:10:47 in the film). As human soldiers attempt to harpoon and cage her, she wrecks spectacular havoc, crushing, hurling, and devouring victims while the visual field is further cluttered by a crisscrossing of lines—her arcing and winding tentacles, for one, but also the taut metal cords attached to already-fired harpoons. As bodies fly, the queen writhes, and soldiers scurry back and forth, shots often run long enough to capture entire action beats sans cuts—e.g., helpless soldiers being flung into the background, characters frantically weaving their way through the crosshatching of harpoon wires. This formal choice does wonders to lend a sense of physicality and presence to a scene revolving around what is otherwise a manifestly CGI creation.
CGI creature action also abounds in A Writer’s Odyssey, director Lu Yang’s tale of two parallel worlds—one in the present day, the other in the fantasy space of a novel in the process of being written—that might or might not be causally linked. Spectacular though these more otherworldly set pieces are, however, the film’s most innovative action scenes occur at the blurry boundary between “reality” and fantasy, flirting with the edges of plausibility without being strictly impossible. Evoking M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy, these set pieces embody the film’s interest in the preternatural abilities that may exist in the everyday, that obfuscate the dividing line between “superpowers” and simple expertise. Rather than telekinesis or levitation, characters sport more modest abilities like extremely accurate aim or an above-average ability to conduct electricity with their bodies. The fun of these scenes stems from their vision of an alternate universe that feels proximate rather than far-fetched, generating the thrill of being almost (or actually) convinced that a given flight of fancy can really happen. The most inventive example (from 01:33:06 – 01:41:14 in the runtime, the film cross-cuts between this scene and another) features a two-against-one match between gifted individuals in a library, delivering the spectacle of the barely-superhuman with the aid of punchy formal flourishes like shots underlining the realness of stunts (e.g., bodies crashing visibly through furniture) and computer-generated jet trails evoking the speed and force of a golf-ball-turned-deadly-projectile.
The pendulum swings fully back toward the supernatural with Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, sequel to the first season of anime series Demon Slayer and currently the highest grossing film of all time in Japan. The film’s most blistering set piece (01:21:13 – 01:41:57 in the film), in which one of the eponymous demon slayers faces off against a high-level adversary, masterfully showcases the kind of visual elasticity that only the medium of animation can offer. Freed from the constraint of physical bodies before a camera but also fueled by a compensatory desire to infuse the action with a sense of weight, volume, and force, the scene features a dizzying blitz of movement that hinges on rapid shifts in perspective and stylized depth staging, with objects and bodies flying at or away from the “camera” and frequently dissolving into frenzied smears of color. The vivid, layered sound design helps round out the impression of fleshed-out bodies in a three-dimensional physical space, as do graphic strategies like the squashing and stretching of limbs and weapons to accentuate directionality and inertia, but a sense of thrilling plasticity remains, the characters’ physics-flouting abilities both expressing and expressed by animation’s own powerful proteanness.
The final film in this section features no superpowers per se, but the hagiographic, mythic brush with which it paints its hero makes the character feel positively superheroic. The title of Master performs double duty, denoting both the job title of protagonist J.D. (Joseph “Vijay” Chandrasekhar)—i.e., the school “master” for a juvenile correctional facility that fronts a criminal drug ring, which he becomes intent on destroying—and the film’s general worshipful attitude toward the man. Exalted by virtually every character in the film—in the form of both spoken dialogue and song and dance numbers—as well as ample slow motion “hero walks” to underscore his rakish cool, J.D. acquires a larger-than-life aura that is then made good on in numerous scenes in which unsuspecting opponents badly underestimate him. Perhaps the most effective example occurs in a police station brawl in which he is jumped by various henchmen of the drug kingpin (01:28:19 - 01:33:02 in the film). Here, the anticipatory dramatic irony of “they don’t know who they’re messing with” is compounded by heightened narrative stakes: two young boys have just been killed by the drug lord, an incident that pushes J.D. over the edge. The resulting fight is intensely cathartic, enhancing the sense of bruising body blows through meaty sound design; tighter shot framings interspersed throughout to capture a specific physical impact up close; and quick cutting that formally emulates the staccato force of J.D.’s hits.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that every entry on this list owes a debt to the golden age of Hong Kong action filmmaking, but some of this year's films more explicitly extend and/or pay homage to this venerated tradition. Arguably the most prominent example is Raging Fire, the posthumous final work from director Benny Chan, whose nearly three-decade run encompassed doomed-romance action melodrama A Moment of Romance (1990), back-breaking stunts showcase Invisible Target (2007), and star-studded historical actioner Call of Heroes (2016), among others. Starring genre stalwarts Nicholas Tse and especially Donnie Yen, whose hard-nosed super-cop protagonist recalls some of the actor’s famous earlier roles, Raging Fire abounds with the kind of blistering, bracingly physical fights and stunts that were the Hong Kong film industry’s claim to fame, with perhaps the most impressive displays occurring in the cathedral-set climax (01:52:24 –  02:00:54 in the film). The intricate modulation between wider views of full-bodied movements and tighter shots of pulverizing body blows and furniture-destroying impact; the shifting fighting styles that span the gamut from MMA grappling to makeshift kung-fu weapon-work using construction materials; the palpably embodied camera that hovers and pivots with the fighters and the continuity editing that maintains a sense of geography and momentum—all evince a honed-to-perfection action filmmaking tradition firing on all cylinders.
Next to Raging Fire, Undercover Punch and Gun feels relatively modest, with budgetary limitations being discernable at the level of production and costume design. That said, when the meat of a film’s appeal is stunts and choreography, much can be achieved on relatively little. Hence, even against a big, glossy vehicle like Raging Fire, directors Frankie Tam and Lui Koon-Nam’s foray into cops-and-criminals hijinks holds its own, nowhere more so than in a fleet-footed junkyard fight near the film’s start (00:10:33 – 00:13:34 in the film). On full display there is the kind of intuitive, tried-and-true Hong-Kong-style alchemy between camera movement, the choreographic flow of bodies, and continuity editing that nonetheless center-frames moments of forceful impact.
One of 2021’s most pronounced examples of Hong Kong’s global influence is the Indian film Sanak, a Die Hard riff in which an MMA trainer played by actor/martial artist Vidyut Jammwal attempts to thwart a terrorist takeover of a hospital. As with the last two examples in this section, Sanak displays many of the stylistic staples of Hong-Kong-style martial arts action, but a slight preference for wider visual framing and steadier camerawork that afford clearer views of intricate choreography evinces the influence of one Hong Kong titan in particular. In one of the film’s most inventive fights (00:58:45 – 01:01:03 in the film), Jammwal’s hero uses the exercise equipment in a physical therapy room to dispatch his attackers, creatively reappropriating his physical environment in a way reminiscent of vintage Jackie Chan.
In Escape from Mogadishu, the Hong Kong influence is felt most powerfully in a scene (01:13:24 – 01:15:13 in the film) in which a South Korean and North Korean diplomat come to blows after the Somali Civil War drove their respective cohorts to seek shelter within the same embassy. Here, the staging of the action at dynamic angles vis-à-vis the camera (in lieu of a simple adherence to eye-level two-shots, there are a number of low-angle shots, and choreographic beats often unfold into depth, like a thrown object or kick traveling away from the camera toward a target) along with the precise, center-framing of key actions (e.g., a face being slammed repeatedly into a phone) draw on the Hong Kong playbook of action filmmaking. The result is a profoundly propulsive experience in which we feel like we are being yanked from one wildly different view to another, but with each view being precisely calibrated so that we end up feeling like we’ve arrived at exactly where we need to be. Escape from Mogadishu culminates in a showier and impressive-in-its-own-right car chase involving thrilling CGI-assisted long takes, but it is this earlier fight that I found more compelling in its tension between chaos and control.
Stateside, the most overt homage to Hong Kong (and China’s) cinematic legacy occurs in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which contains hat-tips to Jackie Chan (e.g., a Police Story [1985] nod in which our protagonist dangles off the side of a moving bus) but also to more fantasy-oriented wuxia pian in which acrobatic martial arts share the screen with otherworldly monsters and extravagant displays of power. The film’s most virtuosic set piece, however, still feels most heavily indebted to Chan: in this scene (00:37:12 – 00:42:50 in the film), our protagonists attempt to fend off an army of high-tech ninjas atop and around a construction scaffold. Although the evidently green-screened background drains the image of some of Chan’s iconic he-really-did-that physicality, the scene compensates with a couple buoyant tracking shots that weave through and around various levels of the scaffold, infusing the fight with both a sense of scale and momentum, along with numerous shots staged into depth to further three-dimensionalize the space. The fight choreography, too—which was supervised by the late Brad Allan, a member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and a stunt/fight coordinator in numerous recent Hollywood productions—is intricate, varied, and cleanly captured. Although stylistically still very much a Marvel film, Shang-Chi is promising as a potential gateway for viewers to discover the kinetic, daredevil virtuosity of Hong Kong action cinema at its height.
One year ends, another begins, but action remains in action. The primordial rush of mediated combat persists in force, drawing on and innovating cinema’s formal affordances to deliver a singular sense of power and physicality. 2021 proved to be a rich showcase of what contemporary action cinema has to offer. Here’s hoping 2022 will be even richer still. 
The Action Scene is a column exploring the construction of action set pieces, but it also considers “scene” in the sense of field or area: “action” as a genre and mode that spans different cultures and historical periods. By examining these two levels in tandem—one oriented toward aesthetic expression, the other toward broader contexts and concepts—this series aims to deepen appreciation for and spark discussion about action cinema.


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