Jackie Chan – How to Do Action Comedy

–Hello? This is Jackie speaking. Hi my name is Tony and
this is Every Frame a Painting. Some filmmakers can do action.
Others can do comedy. But for 40 years, the master of
combining them has been Jackie Chan. These days, there’s a lot of movies
that combine funny scenes with fight scenes.
But even when the movie’s good the comedy and action seem to be
two directors and two different styles. And that’s why Jackie’s so interesting. In his style, action IS comedy. And his work shows that the same
filmmaking principles apply whether you’re trying to be funny
or kick ass. So let’s dive in. If you’d like to
see the names of the films as I’m talking,
press the CC button below. Ready? Let’s go. So how does Jackie create
action that is also funny? First off, he gives himself
a disadvantage. No matter what film, Jackie always
starts beneath his opponents. He has no shoes. He’s handcuffed. He has a bomb in his mouth. From this point, he has to
fight his way back to the top. Each action creates
a logical reaction. And by following the logic… we get a joke. In movies, this comedic style
goes back to the silent clowns like Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton. But I think Jackie has distilled it
down to one line of dialogue:–Please! I said I don’t want trouble! Because he’s the underdog,
Jackie has to get creative which brings us to point number two:
he uses anything around him. This is the most famous
aspect of his style. take something familiar,
do something unfamiliar. I’ve seen him fight with chairs dresses chopsticks keyboards Legos refrigerators and of course: Not only does this make
each fight organic and grounded it also gives us jokes that
couldn’t happen anywhere else. Number 3: Jackie likes clarity. He doesn’t do dark scenes where
everything is color corrected blue. If his opponent wears black,
he wears white. And if his opponent’s in white,
then he’s stylin’ His framing’s so clear that in each shot
he’s setting up the next bit of action. Here, even though we’re
watching the stuntman, two-thirds of frame is the staircase.
A few seconds later, we see why He keeps things clear by rarely
using handheld or dolly moves.–Like American movies, there’s a lotta
movement. When the camera angle moves–that means the actors,
they don’t know how to fight. In slow-motion you can see how the
camera operator swings around to make the hits seem more violent. But since Jackie CAN fight…–I never move my camera.
Always steady. Wide-angle.–Let him see I jumping down,
I do the flip, I do the fall When you shoot this way, everything
looks more impressive because action and reaction are
in the same frame. Notice how you can always see Jackie,
the car and the wall at the same time. But a similar stunt from Rush Hour 3 never includes all the elements in the
same shot, and it doesn’t work. The same principle applies to comedy. This shot, directed by Sammo Hung,
shows us the punch, the bad guy’s face
and Jackie’s face all in one. Now check out the same gag
in Shanghai Noon. Here, action and reaction
are separate shots. It kinda works, but not nearly as well. Why don’t more directors do this? Because of number 5:
they don’t have enough time. Jackie is perfectionist willing to do as
many takes as necessary to get it right And in Hong Kong,
he’s supported by the studio which gives him
months to shoot a fight.–And the most difficult thing is
when I throw the fan and it comes back.More than 120 takes. Those kind of
scenes, you say “Oh, Jackie’s good.”It’s not good. You can do it. Except
do you have the patience or not? When I rewatch his work,
these little things are the ones
I’m most impressed by. He doesn’t need to do them,
and they eat into his budget. But he still does them
because he wants to. And it’s that “going above and beyond”
that I respect and admire.–But in America,
they don’t allow you to do that.You know, because money. And his American work is
missing something else:–And there’s a rhythm also,
to the way that the shots are performedand also the way they’re edited, and
Jackie said something very interestingthat the audience don’t know the
rhythm’s there until it’s NOT there. Jackie’s fight scenes have
a distinct musical rhythm, a timing he works out
on set with the performers.–Ready, action.
Stay where you are!Stay where you are,
don’t chase me.See? Everybody looks good. Even experienced martial artists
have trouble with it. In his earliest films, you see him
learning the timing from Yuan Heping and it’s very much like Chinese opera. But by the mid-1980s,
working with his own stunt team He had something totally unique. In America, many directors and
editors don’t understand this timing. And they ruin it by
cutting on every single hit. By in Hong Kong, directors
hold their shots long enough for the audience to feel the rhythm.–The most important part
is the editing.Most directors,
they don’t know how to edit.Even the stunt coordinators,
they don’t know how to edit. Hong Kong directors like Jackie
and Sammo cut a particular way. In the first shot, you hit
your opponent in the wide. In the second shot,
you get a nice close-up. But when you cut the shots together,
you DON’T match continuity. At the end of shot 1, the elbow is here. At the beginning of shot 2,
it’s all the way back here. These 3 frames are for the audience’s
eyes to register the new shot. And they make all the difference.–I start from here, then here,
But two shots, combinedThat’s power. In other words, show it TWICE
and the audience’s mind will make it one hit that’s stronger. By contrast, modern American editing
doesn’t show the hit at all. At the end of shot 1, the leg is here. At the beginning of shot 2, it’s in
the same place, going backwards. But because they cut at
the exact frame of the hit it doesn’t feel like a hit. A lot of people think this is
because of the PG-13 rating but even R-rated films do this now It looks like a bunch of
people flailing around instead of a bunch of
people getting hurt. Ouch. Which brings us to number 8: pain. Unlike a lot of action stars,
who try to look invincible Jackie gets hurt. A lot. Half the fun of his work is that
not only are the stunts impressive There’s always room for a joke. Pain humanizes him. Because
no matter how skilled he is He still gets smacked in the face. In fact, Jackie’s face may
actually be his greatest asset Many times the look he gives
is all it takes to sell a joke. Like when he does an entire fight
holding a chicken. Or dressed as Chun-li And last, Jackie’s style always ends
with a real payoff for the audience. By fighting his way from the bottom, he
earns the right to a spectacular finish. He doesnt win cause hes a better fighter
He wins because he doesn’t give up This relentlessness makes his finales
really impressive and really funny And it’s in direct contrast to
a lot of his American work where bad guys are defeated
because someone shoots them COME ON. But most of all, I think
Jackie’s style proves something: action and comedy aren’t that different. In both genres, we want
to see our best performers And I think a lot of modern
action directors are failing completely. These actors are skilled artists,
some of the best in the world. Why are the directors so unskilled? Why am I paying money
to NOT see the action?–Whatever you do, do the best you can
because the film lives forever.“No, because that day it was raining
and the actor don’t have time.”I said, would you go to every theater
to tell the audience? No.The audience sits in the theater:
good movie, bad movie that’s all Exactly. This work will last. And on that note,
I leave you with the greatest death scene
in film history.

24 thoughts on “Jackie Chan – How to Do Action Comedy

  1. Thank you for pointing out that modern movies' "fight scenes" don't even look like fight scenes. The crazy camera angles, the cuts, and the insane edits just make it look like a rigorous dance… with swords. Couple that with the fact that the actors almost never show any pain, and- yeahhhhhhhh that is totally realistic. -_-

  2. thats why I hate the fight scenes in these hollywood movies.
    I wish if we could watch jackie chan till our last day on the earth

  3. Doing as many takes as necessary to do the scene properly
    Oh, you mean, actual actors doing the actual job that they are being paid superbly un-actual money for?

  4. And that reason alone is why Asian action films are usually better at conveying action. I still enjoy American action movies but they really don't let you enjoy what's going on screen like Asian films do.

  5. Yea, in most American action movie like Bourne, Bond, and Taken, camera shakes so much I can't even tell who's hitting who most of the time.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.