Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Florentine Method

Undisputed III: Redemption (Isaac Florentine, 2010)

What I like about Isaac Florentine's directing is that he keeps things simple. In his second Undisputed movie (by this point the franchise has drifted far away from the Walter Hill original and closer to the territory of the Ringo Lam / Jean-Claude Van Damme movies -- specifically In Hell, of which this is essentially a remake), Florentine has a little system worked out for the fight scenes, and the system mostly works. It's obstinately unobtrusive: shoot in comparatively long (each shot about 4-5 seconds) hand-held takes, the camera keeping its distance from the two fighters so that both bodies are clearly visible in the frame; focus on the fight, but after every five or so shots, cut to a close-up of the face of an onlooker (usually an inmate, sometimes a guard; always pick an extra with a memorable face, preferably a good scar); at the end of the match, do a brief scene with the money men, crooks and gamblers. The whole film follows a system, too, calculated to give it momentum without taxing the actors too much: scenes in the ring, scenes at the work camp, scenes at the casino, scenes in solitary confinement. Of course the fight scenes are the main attraction: on this sort of budget, you can't afford very good acting (though Scott Adkins -- who was the heavy in Undisputed II and becomes the lead in this film -- has some goddamn expressive eyes), but you can afford great fighters.

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