The best unedited fight sequence ever

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

I have not seen The Protector, but some say it includes the best unedited fight sequence ever:

The crew spent over 1 month preparing and choreographing before they were able to get a perfect shot. When it came time to shoot, they could only do 2 takes per day because of the set repairing and prop replacement that needed to be done. It took 5 takes to get it right. A foreign cameraman was needed because the stedicam mount was built for american / european operators who are typically much larger than asian operators.

The foreign operator they hired could only do two flights of stairs at a time and simply gave up. They decided to use a Thai stedicam operator who physically prepared for a month for this job.

The reason the shot is 4 minutes is because reels of 35mm film are only about 4 min in length.

They shot the first take which had a number of problems with stuntmen cues, and even a stuntman bumping into the stedicam operator. After choreographing more dynamic action, an increase of extras and improving the set, the next take they did was 17 days after the first take.

The second take was better but when the stuntman was supposed to be thrown from the 3rd story, the safety mattress was not completely in place yet so Tony Jaa stopped the shot and saved the stuntman’s life.

The third take was just about perfect but just before Tony Jaa was supposed to bust through the last doorway, the film ran out. The director finally decided that instead of simply cutting there, they would try again for perfection.

They thought the fourth take was perfect but after review there were some parts that weren’t as good as the pervious takes. They decided on one more try.

On the fifth try, it was almost perfect. But there were 2 miscues. On the 2nd floor, Tony Jaa slams a door into the head of a stuntman and the small glass window on the door was supposed to break. It failed to do so, so they used CGI to fix this. The 2nd issue was the fight just before the sink gets thrown. The timing was off as planned but the end result looked natural so they decided this was the take to use in the final film. Simply amazing.

A few thoughts:

  • In some cases, the camera definitely becomes a character — for instance, when the camera runs up the stairs.
  • The extended fight has pro-wrestling-style pacing — you can’t coordinate a frenetic, chaotic fight scene with dozens of guys over the course of four minutes.

(Hat tip to John.)

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