A Professional Stunt Coordinator Shares The Movie Cliche That Drives Him Nuts

If you've had conversations with fellow action movie lovers about the things that happen in film or TV fight scenes that make no sense, you're in good company: professional stunt coordinators have those same nitpicks, too. Brett Chan is the stunt coordinator for "Warrior," the martial arts Cinemax/HBO Max series based on an idea by cinematic superstar Bruce Lee, and in a new interview with /Film, Chan shared some of the cliches he sees in the industry that drive him nuts.

"I Don't Like Creating Fights for the Sake of Just Creating Fights"

We asked Chan what types of things stand out as being particularly phony when he's watching action scenes in projects he didn't work on. One of the biggest problems, he says, is not with the way actors or stunt performers throw their punches, but actually with how they block them.

"Say if I threw a hook at you and all you did was put your hand up, you're not going to block it. Unless you're moving with it, blocking and moving and absorbing, it's a little bit different. You got someone who's 200 pounds throwing this big haymaker on you and you're going to block it just by putting your hand up and then punch him back? You could say it makes for good happy moves and makes a fight look cool, if that's the style you're looking for...
A lot of stuff like Jason Statham, what he does is, it's not like that. You feel the impact of what he's doing, which is kind of cool, and you'll notice that with certain fights and with certain people. I don't like creating fights for the sake of just creating fights. I don't like, 'Okay, we're going to put a fight here, but it's all a bunch of cool moves,' which is not cool because then people get bored of watching the fights all the time that way."

Statham is a perfect example of an actor who has been in enough action films to know how to sell a fight scene with the best of them; I can visualize what it looks like when he uses his body to absorbs big blows and dishes out his own. There's a fluidity to his physicality that adds to the realism of what you're watching.

One of the Most Pervasive Cliches Still Happens All the Time

One of Chan's biggest pet peeves is, unfortunately, something that still happens all too often in hand-to-hand fight scenes in film and television.

"For me, it's a big pet peeve when I'm watching a fight and there are multiple guys. If there are five guys and you're just fighting one of them at a time, that's a big pet peeve when I'm watching shows like that and that's what happens in the fight. That is just never going to happen. It's got to be realistic. It's going to be all of them coming at you, like two or three at a time, because not all five can be there because of spacing, but your guy should be dealing with multiple things at once."

This has been an issue for literally decades, and I've personally made my peace with it. It's obviously far more realistic for multiple people to attack the protagonist as a group, and I'll certainly give kudos to productions that go the extra mile to add that level of verisimilitude to their fights, but I've accepted the fact that it's simply more practical to showcase clean action by doing one-on-one fights. But then again, maybe Chan can be part of a new wave of stunt coordinators who finally put the nail in that particular cliche's coffin once and for all.