Sometimes on the weekends I gravitate towards more unsavory fare to watch in my leisure time. I’m not proud of it but it is an incontrovertible fact. Over this past weekend, I labored through the subpar actioner Skin Trade with the delusional hopes that Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa would share longer a tenth of film together. In short, my pie-in-the-sky idealism was dashed. The film couldn’t be more generic. Part of the reason for the homogenized feeling of the film were the choices of locations for the fisticuffs set pieces. In the wake of this, I realized that much of the thrill that viewers get from kinetic pictures comes from the use of exotic locations. Sadly, milieus are recycled ad infinitum. In this article, I will describe the three most reused locations for action set pieces and point the finger at the worst offenders for overusing these geographical cliches.
We saw the outrageously death-defying topple of freighters in The A-Team but it contend that was the most innovative application of this dull environment outside of Lethal Weapon 2. Sure, it is claustrophobic and attackers can practice parkour across the top ala superheroes like Daredevil and Batman. But visually they’re just mobile alleyways.
The culprit: Season 2 of The Wire. The entire second season revolved around the human-trafficking ring that originated at the docks. Now the docks are synonymous with sleaziness and the exportation/importation of contraband.
Sparks and flames are great tools for dispatching your enemy but the sweat-and-charred-flesh combination has really lost it’s lost luster. It’s cheap theatricality to imply heat and tension where none exist (ex. Gone in Sixty Seconds).
The culprit: Cobra. Cobra is an egomaniacal, testosterone-pumping guilty pleasure which handily tosses elements of a serial killer thriller, Stallone vanity project and a Joel Silver police procedural into a vascular casserole but the meathook finale is a fiery highlight.
The strobe effect of the lights are conducive to hiding the choreography of actors who haven’t rehearsed. The house music is an adequate replacement for a musical score and the danger is heightened by multiple targets in the guise of clubhoppers.
The culprit: Collateral. Collateral‘s techno-throbbing sequence is the perfect juncture for all the movie’s various characters. They converge at the club during one of Vincent’s executions and between the music and slithery maneuvers of Tom Cruise, the precision by Michael Mann is painstaking.