David Cronenberg's latest, Eastern Promises, was released recently. A London-based thriller centred around the Russian crime underworld, it's not great. Fairly restrained and tepid compared to much of Cronenberg's powerful previous work. However, there is one much-discussed scene which really shines and sticks in the memory. It occurs when the driver for a Russian crime family (Viggo Mortensen) has to fend off two thugs who want him dead for revenge of their brother's murder. The thugs, heavily dressed in black and wielding knives, attack Mortensen in a bath house, when he is entirely naked apart from a puzzle of tattoos covering his body. It's a powerful, brutal, heart-pounding scene that has drawn attention no so much for the violence but for the rare inclusion of a wang.
When the scene was over, the film slipped back into its plodding plotlines - and got me thinking about awesome scenes in average films. Snatch, for example, is a deeply irritating and often embarassing film. However, I have seen it more times than I would like to admit, because of the boxing scene that acts as the film's climax. It's fiercely edited and mixed, coming off somewhere in between a rave and a Guiness advert. You'd expect from this that Guy Ritchie would be a dab hand at short films and adverts, but his awful, awful, awful BMW film got rid of this suspicion promptly.
It's something Tarantino seems to warming to as his budgets get bigger - whereas Pulp Fiction strung together a series of unrelated but well-crafted vignettes, his latest efforts seem to be defined by their high points. Kill Bill Volume 1 was really only exceptional for the showdown at the house of blue leaves, which provided the kind of excitement whose absence from Kill Bill Volume 2 might explain why it was such a chore. Death Proof took this even further - almost every review read something like "Not very good, but with a worthwhile car chase at the end". Unfortunately the effect is dampened somewhat by the preceding two hours of dull arrogance, so this is definitely a scene that's better when standing alone.
All the scenes I've mentioned so far have been action scenes - well, that's because they generally kick-start a slow, monotonous plot, or gives you a reason to care about the characters. Action films themselves are prime for YouTube scene grabbing, with the majority of big set-pieces readily available for out-of-context picking, the narrative not causing any concern. In fact, most action scenes are remembered as a string of punchy scenes all packed together, with any talky bits acting as filler. This can be done very well (the central hour of King Kong was a dialogue-free marathon of one-upmanship) or very badly (Shoot 'Em Up was like that bit in The Office where Gareth grabs the big inflatable wang, about to make a joke, then realises he was too excited to think of anything and puts it back).
Anyway, I haven't really figured out a point to this post yet, apart from bad films often feature awesome scenes and Tarantino should shut up. I think it's just YouTube, forcing me to note down nice bits in a film so that I can re-watch them later. Luckily, YouTube doesn't work on my new laptop, so maybe someday I'll get back to watching films in their entirety. Or maybe I just love a good action film. Wang.