FILMxFIVE: TOM’S FIVE FAVORITE BAR ROOM BRAWLS!
by Tom Fuchs, Digital Media Manager
In honor of this Friday’s return release of Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets to Sofa Cinema (bookmark this page to rent!), I thought I could spend this week’s FILMxFIVE celebrating one of my favorite cinematic staples – the bar room brawl.
From dive-destroying donnybrooks, to saloon-shattering slobberknockers, to pub-punishing punch-ups, any time you can set aside to view these films will make for a happy hour or two.
1. Tokyo Drifter
(dir. Seijun Suzuki | Japan | 1966)
Less style over substance than S.R.E.A.M. (style rules everything around me), Seijun Suzuki’s jazzy yakuza riff features a sprawling bar brawl that imprinted on me much the same as the rest of Suzuki’s impressionistic palette. If your funds are too tight at the moment for a Criterion Channel subscription, pop over to the internet archive and enjoy – the melee in question starts at approximately the 59:41 mark!
2 The World’s End
(dir. Edgar Wright | UK/USA/Japan | 2013)
The pub crawl becomes a pub brawl in the final entry in Edgar Wright’s kinetic Cornetto Trilogy. The most emotionally resonant entry in Wright’s ouevre, the film tackles addiction, responsibility, and codependency all while spinning a massively entertaining yarn about a small town **spoiler alert** overrun by an alien entity. I dare anyone who’s chafed against the borders of the towns they grew up in not to get an adrenaline boost from Nick Frost’s battle cry that kicks off this free-for-all. Also, double fisted bar stools as a melee weapon? Forget about it.
(dir. Hal Needham | USA | 1978)
You can draw a straight line from the free-wheeling, stunt-filled comedies of Hal Needham to the extremities inflicted by my beloved Jackass boys. Needham, having cut his teeth early on as a stuntman himself, was able to draw on those experiences for this amiable comedy about a stunt coordinator (Burt Reynolds) misadventures on the set of The Spy Who Laughed at Danger. What’s better than this? Guys being dudes.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(dir. Ang Lee | Taiwan/China/Hong Kong/USA | 2000)
Zhang Ziyi’s teahouse tussle manages the special feat of bringing down the house both figuratively and literally! As a bonus, this is probably the most badass name for a movie clip in the history of YouTube.
5. Top Secret!
(dir. Jim Abrahams/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker | USA | 1984)
There are so very many delightful saloon brawls in the history of the Western genre that I couldn’t pick just one for this list, and instead pivoted to this miraculous recreation of that genre staple in the legendary ZAZ comedy Top Secret! For my money, this spy spoof is every bit the equal of Airplane, if we’re lining them up gag-for-gag, and there’s no better example than this drawn out underwater brawl. Underbrawlter?