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From Scarface to Smokin’ Aces: the art of the gun scene


I like gun scenes in movies, but very few directors have mastered the art of the gun scene. I was young but Tony’s death scene in Scarface (1983) was both shocking and exciting (read more about my Scarface experience here). Tony knew he was going to die but he goes out shooting and shouting insults like if he was immortal. That was my first gun scene experience in movies, an unforgettable one that inspired my first short movie as you may already know.

But if Scarface is a masterpiece, other movies were also successful due to the quality of their gun scene(s). I’m not talking about classic western films, but about recent -action- movies, in the last two decades. John Woo is one of the best in the genre: The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992) both show slow motion shots and choreographed action in an amazing final scene (respectively a church and an hospital). Chow Yun-fatis using dual pistols like anybody else. Quite different from his role of Captain Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End…

In 1990, French film Nikita(La Femme Nikita) was an important movie for me. First because it is the first time I saw the main character being a woman, Nikita (Anne Parillaud), a top secret assassin. And second, because I discovered French director/writer/producer Luc Besson two years before with Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue) and it was so poetic I was then very surprised to see such a different genre with Nikita. He later made Léon (The Professional) in 1994, which also had some memorable action scenes.

In 1995, with Heat, I got a double-dose in one movie, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. I remember waiting for almost two hours to see them talking at the restaurant. It lasted only six minutes. Front to front. I can’t wait for Righteous Kill to see them reunited again (first time was in The Godfather, Part II but they never shared the screen together). The shooting scene in Heat director Michael Mann captured, in the street of downtown Los Angeles after the bank robbery, was very intense and so realistic.

Then came From Dusk till Dawn, by Robert Rodriguez (director) and Quentin Tarantino (writer and actor). It started like a thriller movie and then switched to a vampire action movie. I loved the u-turn and even more the shooting scenes at the Titty Twister. But also the Aztec temple, the Sex Machine gun, the sicko Gecko brothers… One of my favorite movie.

Almost a decade later, in 2005, another movie surprised me. Domino, with Keira Knightley as Domino Harvey. Tony Scott worked with cinematographer Dan Mindel and colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld, and the whole crew created some interesting camera shots (although sometimes choppy) and colors. The shooting scene takes place in Las Vegas’ Stratosphere and its blow up looks a little bit like a pyrotechnical party but it was still very enjoyable.

And last but not least, Smokin’ Aces. I already mentioned NARC and Smokin’ Aces in an another post (here), and I really like Joe Carnahan‘s work. In Smokin’ Aces, Carnahan collaborated with cinematographer Mauro Fiore and production designer Martin Whist. Both are very talented artists and the final sequence (‘Doomsday on the Penthouse Level’) is stunning, with all these people converging at the same place, at the same time to get or kill Buddy Israel. The final action is contained into an elevator, a lobby and hallways. Not to mention the amazing Nomad Casino penthouse suite, the weirdo karate boy (I practiced karate and I swear I knew a guy -almost- like Warren!) or the FBI agent being dissected with the Tremor Bros. chainsaw… Now we’re back to Scarface!

I think a good gun/shooting scene can make a movie successful. And a movie can of course be successful without any gun scene at all. But to make a quality gun scene, you need a good crew and technicals. And creativity, and audacity. One of my script includes a shooting scene, I hope when I will be able to make it, I will be inspired by the work done by these great directors. Even though I don’t pretend I will be able to equal any of them. But I will do my best when the moment will come. ^_^






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