Everything is going “Haywire” when it comes to a discussion of movies featuring great running and fighting scenes. Except in my house. Nothing “Haywire” there because we came to a conclusion a few years ago in my household. You may disagree. That is your right and privilege. Just keep in mind that you are wrong. Daniel Craig is the best runner in the movies today. Maybe ever.
What cemented “Casino Royale” as my favorite Bond movie to date was that opening sequence of Bond running after the guy with the backpack. There is just something about the way that Craig holds his body when he’s running that draws you in. That fight scene with all the parkour jumping and sliding and bouncing and leaping was nothing new, of course. Anyone who has watched martial arts movies would recognize the influence. Maybe it is just a case of Anglo-identification, but to see something that exciting and well choreographed and, yes, believable, in a Bond movie after the Dark Days of Brosnan was such a welcome sight. Fighting and running have rarely been so beautifully fused together in a big budget mainstream Hollywood action film.
The Princess Bride
What makes this a memorable amalgamation of running and fighting is the way it presents an emotional rollercoaster. When Inigo Montoya finally catches up with the dastard who killed his father, director Rob Reiner frames the opening gambit in a way that promises immediate catharsis only to comically upend expectations by having this personification of evil cowardly turn tail and run. This confounding of expected events sets the stage for a scene combining running and fighting that manages, within a very short period of time, to transport the audience from laughter to near-tragedy to, ultimately, the cathartic act of revenge that lends “The Princess Bride” its emotional depth. By the way, this emotional depth is far more important and expansive in the book than the movie.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones looks like it really is the mileage and not the age. Maybe it’s just a case of Harrison Ford not being quite the equivalent of Daniel Craig as one of the movies’ great runners or maybe it was an acting choice. That opening sequence of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” actually does not contain much mixing of fighting and running. First Indy fights his way through the tunnel with that golden treasure and then he runs for his life. The way Ford uses his body brings to mind, probably purposely, the image of Western heroes running and fighting. That lumbering gait perfect sets the stage for his later rumination on the boat with Marian about the effects on the body of his chosen profession.
You may not have seen “Oldboy” but chances are that you have heard this Korean movie referred to as one of the greatest films of the 21st century. A number of reasons exist for this high placement, but almost everyone will agree that the famous fight scene is one of the elements aspects behind the universal praise. The protagonist initiates the fight by full out running, but this entry features the least running distance and speed. The highly stylized fight video game side-scrolling brawl does combine the acts of running and fighting, but despite the fact that the emphasis on running is much lesser, paradoxically you can argue that the emotional tenor of flight over fight is more intense. The protagonist is running away from a horrific recent past and toward what he hopes will be an understanding. The fight scene is not just a cinematic tour de force, but one of the greatest examples of fighting and running as symbolism ever put on film.
The James Bond movie that will serve to follow up “Quantum of Solace” is going to break the current record for most product placement spending. Reportedly, a hefty 45 million dollars of the overall budget will come courtesy of businesses wanting to brand their products behind and to the side of Daniel Craig. You may think that product placement to finance a movie is a fairly recent endeavor, but you would be wrong.
As far as any historian has so far discovered, the very first film to sell product placement rights in exchange for money sunk into a disappearing budget was a lesser Marx Brothers effort titled “Love Happy.” This movie represented the end of the movie careers of the Marxes as a brother team. So bad was it that Groucho Marx routinely ignored it and cited its predecessor “A Night in Casablanca” as the last movie the brothers ever made. A chase scene across the roofs of urban buildings is a centerpiece of “Love Happy” and if you know anything about movies made in the 1940s, you know that high buildings back then often featured enormous neon signs advertising cigarettes or some other product. With money running low and still more film to be shot, the producers came up with the grand idea of selling advertising space on those neon signs to raise funds to complete their movie. “Love Happy” is mostly famous for being one of the first movies to give Marilyn Monroe a featured part, but in fact it should be rightly noted as one of the most important films in Hollywood history.
The next James Bond movie is going to look significantly different from a latter day Marx Brothers farce, but the tie that binds is undeniable. Oh sure, there had been cases of product placement in movies going back as least as far as the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture: “Wings.” The product was a Hershey bar. Other examples of what was probably product placement go back to the heyday of silent movies. What sets “Love Happy” apart is that it appears to be the first case of showcasing products in scenes merely for the purposes of advertisement in exchange for financial fluidity. The next James Bond movie is simply “Love Happy” times 1,999.
That Bond movie is going to set a new record, so there must be an existing record already in place. Care to know what it was? “Minority Report.” Steven Spielberg’s increasingly less futuristic movie banked about 20 million by selling advertising slots. The one thing you can say about “Minority Report” is that this advertising was integrated into the plot in a way that was more creative than the typical kind of 3D shoving of the brand name product directly at the camera.
Bond movies have been using product placement for some time and, truthfully, the placement is about as subtle as a commercial for a used car lot airing around 2:35 in the morning. It would be nice to kiss off product placement forever, but that is hardly realistic. The next best thing would be to hope that filmmakers lean a little more closely to the “Minority Report” method than the James Bond method.