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We’ve all seen “that” fight scenes. It was that one in Daredevil or, was it Oldboy? The corridor fight scenes seems to have become a staple of action movies or television shows. Something about those sequences is different when compared to the myriad of other fights that you can watch today. Let’s look at where this scene first broke ground and how that has affected the way martial arts and fight scenes have changed.

Corridor Fight Scenes

The movie that set the kind of tone and style for this fight scene in its modern sense was Oldboy. A section of the movie involves the main character Oh Dae-su attempting to escape through a narrow corridor. What sets this scene apart is that it is filmed as a single shot, that scrolls from left to right along the length of the corridor. By making this scene one take, without cutting away, the audience is forced to endure the entirety of the violence without any break. This in a way puts the viewers in the shoes of Oh Dae-su and we even see the characters grow exhausted as the fight goes on.

We see Oh Dae-su attack the horde of thugs, however many of them get up after being knocked down. This is another innovation where we see that the main character is not a superman, his blows are unlikely to knock a person out in one strike and this means he often must face the same individuals he struck seconds prior. If you watch street camera footage of fights, certain cases show strikes missing or hit without sufficient power to neutralise their opponents. This leads the fight to go on longer than anticipated, and as an audience we are kept in a state of tension as to what will happen.

The use of weapons like hammers, knives, bats makes the injuries sustained that more brutal to watch. Oh Dae-su is also subjected to damage when he is hit multiple times, beaten with bats and stabbed in the back. Here we do not see an idealised exchange between trained fighters flying around on wires. Instead we the audience are subjected to the sloppy and brutal elements of violence. The entire fight is presented as a physical and mental struggle that exhausts us as well as the characters involved.

This scene has gone on to inspire other productions that have utilised their own corridor fight scenes. Notable among these are the Netflix Marvel shows that include Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. In episode three of Daredevil we see a similar take where there is a one-shot fight scene. This is marked by certain differences, particularly that the fight spills into separate rooms where the camera does not follow. This deprives the audience of its sight, like Daredevil’s own blindness, forcing us to rely on sound to piece together the violence taking place.

What Makes the Corridor Fight Scenes So Memorable?

Another difference to Oldboy is the way the violence takes on a more fantastical approach. This can be seen particularly within the Iron Fist series. By this point it seems the studio had done away with attempting to give the scenes realistic impact. Rather they were filmed with more elaborate choreography and visual effects. In doing this the sense of threat and suspense is largely diminished within these scenes. However, there are other examples where the visceral nature of the corridor scene continues.

The Raid has garnered critical acclaim for its high intensity action and fights. Among these it shows not one but two corridor fights! Unlike Oldboy where the scene was filmed in one shot, The raid makes use of multiple, fast cuts that increase the speed and pace of the scene. However, the scenes do not shirk away from the violence and damage inflicted on the characters involved. In fact, the Raid makes great use of multiple weapons and marries this with high speed and elaborate choreography.

What makes the corridor fight scenes so memorable for me is the way it traps the main characters in a situation where they cannot escape and must push forward through a violent obstacle. Most of the examples above show the way that the protagonists suffer as well as the antagonists when engaging in violence. Through intelligent use of video editing, the fight is made more real by its attention to time and the claustrophobic proximity of violence.

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