How Fake Action cringes the discerning viewer

Movie stars, like any brand, have a particular identity that is fostered and sold to the audience as what makes them distinct and somehow ‘better’ than all competing brands. In the case of action stars their brands are built to a VERY large degree on the base of “We really do this stuff”. If you see it on screen, it’s because someone really did it.” That’s what adds that extra bit of thrill to their work, because they are really laying their bodies on the line.

But since the inception of VFX into films and action in particular, quite a few wannabes take themselves too seriously as “action heroes” just to get that USP which was attached historically to the legendary martial artist actors. The first film which probably did this was The Matrix in 1999 and since then it has been done to death in just about every small and big ticket film in the West and East. The technology has been milked for all its worth so much as so that it has barely any novelty or wow factor left. Worse, it had made the actors delusional and lazy. For an action enthusiast it can be very insulting to see a wannabe action star pretending to be macho and cool while his body language is laughably bad. Most of these actors are not even aware of basic aerial techniques or even human motion physics, forget about actually doing them properly.

Experts/ppl with martial arts background can of course analyze and detect such fake action in detail but even a discerning viewer with his common sense and basic human physics can make out the shoddiness when VFX is used in both Hollywood and Bollywood films.

Here’s How:

1) One of the most common sequence is when the hero makes a front leap to attack. You can tell everything about the move from the actors body language. Practically when a traceur makes front leap, the body is always hunched with the knees slightly bent and the legs will ALWAYS point forwards. This kind of position brings his entire body weight near his centre of mass and therefore the person can cover a really long distance. Also the legs point forward in the direction of the momentum of the body which enhances the speed of the leap.

Here is a scene from a typical South Indian actioner Singham where he is attempting a similar leap by using wires. The body is stiff and straight as its held by cables and the legs are in the exact opposite direction because he and his choreographer are simply ignorant or lazy to even care about how its done in real life.

Here is a similar leap by by Akshay in KKK, Vidyut in commando and by Tony Jaa in Ong bak. Check the body dynamics and the positioning of the legs.

2) Another common sequence is the roof run.It looks very thrilling and visually appealing when a traceur does it. Mostly used in chase scenes.
I remember one such chase sequence in Dabangg. Salman’s body language here is like those kids in shopping mall compounds attempting bungee trampolines. The scene on the right is from District 13 showing how the position should be while doing a roof run. It is similar to the forward leap just that the body will be more hunched towards the center so that when you reach the ground, the point of contact of the surface area of the body with the ground is minimal and thus the shock of falling can be resisted without any breakage of bones.

3) Almost all the aerial moves must finish with a roll over with the exception of butterfly kick and corkscrew. Now whether you do any kind of vault or leap there is no way you can stop the body movement without the roll over.

This always reminds me of the Krrish/Dhoom stunts by Hrithik. When he is done jumping like super mario on the buildings, he lands like Tommy Vercetti of GTA vice city. A human body can never stop without a proper roll over after a massive aerial move. Mostly the roll is over the head or shoulders. This is the safest and probably the only realistic way to finish a grand aerial move.

4) The wall flip is spectacular to look at if done neatly. But equally cringe worthy when done by a wannabe using cables. Here is the still from Dhoom 3 where Kat is attempting a wall flip but look at her legs. She has compacted her whole body and the only reason why she remains suspended in the air in this ridiculous position is because she is held by wires. The other still is a similar wall flip done by Vidyut in commando where the legs are apart and closer to the wall while the upper and lower half of his body take the shape of the letter “U”. This results in safe landing because wall flip is basically a no-hand cartwheel done on the wall instead of the ground.

In case of the non-aerial action scenes, a very simple give way of wire work is when either the fight is fast forwarded or done in ultra slo-mo. Both look ridiculously bad and are shot that way to hide the inabilities of the actor but the audience is intelligent enough to notice it. Those who can carry it off without wires will never go for these tricks. They will go for the real time motion.

Hunting the stunt double is also pretty easy. There will be lots of back shots or “hurried” camera movements. There will always be a minor difference in the physique and height. Another way is to chek if the actor himself is Photoshopped during such scenes. In ETT Salman’s face was superimposed on a stunt double. Same with Rajini in robot.

Thankfully the trend of such OTT fake action is on decline. People are bored of feeling like jackasses watching such nonsense in theater after paying 200-300 rupees. It is about time the filmmakers realized it.

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44 Comments
  1. sputnik 5 years ago

    Very good post Baba.

    The Matrix was a sci-fi movie so any kind of unbelievable action can be justified in that. Keanu Reaves did not become a action hero because of that movie. It just that everyone found that gravity defying action cool and every Bollywood movie started copying those action scenes even though none of them were sci-fi movies or had any justification for those action scenes.

    Hrithik landing in whatever pose can again be justified as he is supposed to be a superhero who can fly and do impossible things. But its ridiculous when Salman/Ajay playing normal human beings in Dabangg/Singham can defy the laws of physics.

    And I don’t think its Kat in that Dhoom 3 scene. I think its the body double.

    • Baba 5 years ago

      i dont think its the body double.body double would have done it without cables.

  2. John Galt 5 years ago

    Excellent Excellent…post Baba…. Loved your use of pictures..Totally agree with the jump landing rolling over (covered in 100s of authentic martial arts movies) and the back bent/leg forward while taking a leap..

    Absouletly agree with Salman being carried using a trampoline rope around his groin 😆 in that scene..

    I think Sputnik already mentioned what I wanted to say about The Matrix- that it worked that way as the story and the context made it believable – It was supposed to be highly impossible action as its being played through the mind that’s plugged into the matrix…but yeah our Bodyguard directors took it farther than Matrix 😀

    • Baba 5 years ago

      thanks sputnik ,suprabh and surabh . yes i agree on matrix. the world in which it was set in allowed that kind of action.Infact morpheus even says in that kungfu programme fight scene with neo that me beating you has nothing to do with my skills or strength.the world of matrix is meant to beat the laws of physics and create its own laws. the reason i named matrix is because it was path breaking in the sense that it introduced wire work into films.

  3. Sanket Porwal 5 years ago

    Excellent! I was never interested in such in-depth analysis. But this one was interesting and also because of use of pictures.

    “I remember one such chase sequence in Dabangg. Salman’s body language here is like those kids in shopping mall compounds attempting bungee trampolines” :v hilarious

  4. Saurabh Kadam 5 years ago

    Excellent post Baba. The Matrix action was a display of mind over matter. Hence the slow motion because Neo moves so fast that that time seems to slow down to his mind. In short Neo’s mind mends the rules of the Matrix. The bullet time scenes were designed to give the audience a perspective of this effect. Sadly, our directors and actors understood only the ‘cool’ aspect of the action and never tried to understand why it was staged that way in the first place.

    Another thing I have noticed in our post 2000 action scenes is what I call the rope spotting scene, where the actors jump or kick with their hands holding the cable to give them the balance. You can easily make out that they are holding onto some cable.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=9FhZ3ygg9oc

    Most recent example is Boss where AK jumps zillion times holding onto a cable and kicks Ronit Roy at the end.
    Worst part of this slo mo action is our action stars like AK, Sunil Shetty embracing this fad and not giving some input on how the action should look.

    Now this is my favourite action scene in a long time and nothing comes close to the gritty nature of this fight.

    Matt Damon is a bit stout man. He isn’t quite athletic as Joey Ansah. He doesn’t deliver flashy kicks. The most important reason being he doesn’t need to. His efficiency and experience are his assets which gives him the edge over Desh.

    • Baba 5 years ago

      saurabh – i dont agree on this scene.matt damon has used double here while jumping from one window to other. secondly, the action is made to look faster than it actualy is by random camera movements and breaks in shot taking

      • John Galt 5 years ago

        I was about to comment the same thing..use of double

  5. cr7 5 years ago

    Excellent Post baba .very In-depth analysis .

  6. Manish Kumar 5 years ago

    excellent post … even the basics like kicking are nt done properly by our so called “last axn hero” 🙂 and miss kat who tells in her interview how much she likes doing axn n still use body double in all axn scenes whether it be ett or dhoom 3

  7. Anjanpur685Miles 5 years ago

    Yep, Excellent Post and very good work putting all pics together to explain.

  8. Baba 5 years ago

    Thanks ritz, cr and sanket. you can add your own viewing experiences here. times when you felt wtf watching some action scene

  9. dwnpiyush 5 years ago

    @baba… master aadmi hai yaar tu…

    as far as my view goes, I think all these facilitators- the ropes, the harnesses, and even vfx- are just like all other props used to make a world of make-believe… in fact a bottle of glycerine being used in a breaking down scene is not too different from an actor using cables while kicking high or jumping from heights… I don’t expect actors to be as active and agile as stuntmen or martial art experts… but what is irritating is the lazy use of these props… they should be used in such a manner that a discerning viewer such as you should also find it tough to say for sure… As you have pointed out, hardly an effort is being made these days to look authentic- and that is just taking the audience for granted…

    • Baba 5 years ago

      “hardly an effort is being made these days to look authentic- and that is just taking the audience for granted” agreed.but even that is not irritating to me as much as when these actors boast of how they did it themselves and how it pushed the envelope of action in cinema. there is no need to make such sweeping statements.

  10. Bored 5 years ago

    Baba – u r a lonely ‘discerning action viewer’ out there.

    The audience of Matrix needed the fantasy background to take its stunts. Bollywood audience dont care abt anything except entertainment. So authenticity is never an issue – stylish or spoofy, both are equally entertaining to them and both will sell very well.

    As long as money comes in, the industry/filmmakers wont care if one or two guyz are cringing.

    • Baba 5 years ago

      there are quite a few. ofc there is always an audience for subpar entertainment not just in bw but even in hw . but then who can stop a rickshawallah from his entertainment by fantasy action? 😉 they are fan boys. interestingly this year has been bad for such films.

  11. Bored 5 years ago

    Just wait and see how Aamir takes D3 way past 250 cr in a few days. Whether u go by Taran’s numbers or Komal’s numbers or Gopal’s numbers, D3 will emerge the highest grossing film of bollywood – no matter how much u cringe and complain.

  12. I.One 5 years ago

    Brilliant post Baba. Yes, you get a cringe as well as being cheated feeling when you watch such action scenes who tore apart the law of physics. An excellent point too about how Matrix started this trend of VFX into action. Talking about crap in action, here is the link of some hopeless action scenes which in are like HIT among audiences. If you or Sputnik can post this video here, it will be helpful.

    • Baba 5 years ago

      LOL! this is a good collection. Son of sardar . how coudl i forget it. and the recent singh saab the great. i dont expect from others but i think akshay just keeps wasting and limiting his talent in such trash. infact his ads are better than his films 😉

      • I.One 5 years ago

        The best of the lot is the last scene. A 1 tonne of weight falls from a height on a jeep and you can accept that jeep will get demolished. Here a 100 Kg man kicks a jeep upside down and the vehicle just tears apart! Even kids will laugh on such scenes. One more noteworthy scene is Akshay walking and half a dozen guys flying in the air. There is no logic by even crap standards.

  13. Serenzy 5 years ago

    Very good post, Baba. Good use of pics and nice description about postures and stuff.

    My personal take is that, yes many of the time the ACTION comes across as cringeworthy and purile but sometimes it is passable too and a level of cinematic freedom must be given to the makers epsc. when it moves along with the ’emotional/dramatic core’ of a story/script in a fluid manner.
    Eg: Gadar, Wanted, Ghajini, AP, Singham and RR.
    I actually won’t go around looking for technicalities in these movies bcz the ‘movie experience’ in itself is satisfying to my tastes.

    But a similar scene done lazily and put into the film for the heck of it… That’s where the problem arises(BG, Golmaal, BB, Ready, SOS, K786 etc.)

    • Serenzy 5 years ago

      Not indicating here that I LOVE the action in those movies(Maybe I do, that of GADAR.. Charges me up! 😀 ).

      Basically, I don’t mind the action sequences in these movies ‘to a large extent’, as such.

      ps: Yet to see COMMANDO which I’ll do by the end of this month.
      Did not like FORCE(Both movie and Vidyut’s act) very much.

  14. Serenzy 5 years ago

    Sputnik,
    What happened to the “Mobile Version” of TQ!!!
    It got all wierd and tied up in last 4-5 months.
    Hence, I visited TQ rarely during recent times.

    • sputnik 5 years ago

      First of all good to see you here.

      What do you mean by weird? Initially it used to show up just like on desktop but in small size and you had to zoom it.

      I made it responsive so that it shows up properly. You have to scroll a bit to get to the comments though. I checked from iphone and it shows up fine and I think FS also found it fine from an android phone.

      • cr7 5 years ago

        I visited tanqeed quite a few times from an android device(Didn’t make any comments though) . It worked fine .

  15. Serenzy 5 years ago

    Sputnik,
    Earlier, the Desktop Version used to come up whenever I logged in from my phone.
    It used to come ‘exactly’ same as we are used to seeing it on our PC’s on my mobile which made it a lot easier to scroll across and stuff.

    Around CE/OUATIMD time, the ‘Mobile Version’ started coming on my phone and it became impossible to navigate through the website.
    And the text/words of the post and the comments started overlapping each other and all(Didn’t encounter this problem when I opened NG).

    I possibly need to update my web browser on my cellphone but this was the first time such a thing happened with me on TQ.!

    • sputnik 5 years ago

      I think its something specific to your cell phone or the browser on it coz this is the first time I have heard of overlapping text.

  16. Anjanpur685Miles 5 years ago

    Baba, one fact: while all this OTT action came from south in recent years, still bollywood was also OTT in a way till 90s late and the first movie which changed the way and paved way for realistic action scenes came from a south director.

    • Baba 5 years ago

      satya and rgv’s emergence came at the time of candyfloss cinema in bw and those who were irritated by those chick flicks lapped on to him.

      • Anjanpur685Miles 5 years ago

        Well, if you watch the first scene in the movie where Satya gets beaten up – its very realistic.

        It may not be a high profile action but it was realistic.

        It is very true what you said “satya and rgv’s emergence came at the time of candyfloss cinema in bw and those who were irritated by those chick flicks lapped on to him.”

        But still, I dont think you can put down RGV or his films bluntly like that no matter what his films have turned out to be now, He is/was a major factor in changing our cinema from OTT to realistic (the undercurrent still exists – but ppl look at only economics more than number of films which follow the pattern he introduced..)

        • Baba 5 years ago

          i understand your point ritz and i agree.its a raw fight and very real in terms of something which one may have seen on the street. like that vastav scene where sanjay kills a gangster with a stone. that was also very raw and at the same time not like the sunny deol superheroism either.they are sensibly executed.

          another larger point i think is how the demographics of the movie going audience has changed today. some old BO experts still believe fmaily audiences make or break films but its not true. infact family audience have stoped visiting theatre long ago. they may turn out for event film like 3i etc but they are no more a part of repeat audience now. they watch movies on tv/dvd. The movie going audience today consist of youngsters, bachelors or just married couples. and they relate with films which deals with issues they are familiar with. I think coming of age genre works best today. films dealing with careers, traveling,identity crisis etc. i doubt if any of the big masala or action films are going to work ina big way. Infact PK has the best chance of reaching 300. it has a contemporary subject i believe

          • Anjanpur685Miles 5 years ago

            “some old BO experts still believe fmaily audiences make or break films but its not true”

            Today was Children’s Day [Chacha Nehru Bday] and I attended the annual day where my 8 yr old performed to a dance show..
            Apart from his group dance show I loved a dance performance on below song by std 9th and 10th guys …

            And to my surprise …school teachers / parents were were cool about it. I loved it ofcourse – it was choreographed in a fine way …..and a guy from 10th std – who was on mic summed it up in a good way.

            Times have changed man, and I loved it 🙂

  17. sputnik 5 years ago

    @Ritz,

    Which school is this? I think its completely inappropriate song in a school dance thing. How did the teachers allow this? Did they at least beep the F word?

    One of my friends in 9th grade got in trouble with the Computer teacher because he said the word Shit in class. We thought it was total overreaction on her part.

    He used to sing songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex”, “I’m Too Sexy” in tenth class during breaks. He was a character. He died a few years ago in a bike accident.

    • Anjanpur685Miles 5 years ago

      @Sputnik

      I was surpised too…but I later on found its OK.

      I still have to find out how teachers allowed it. But given the vibes I heard – most ppl loved it.

      PS: The impact of meaning of words is not so offensive here. Maybe its very much offensive or derogatory for USA kids….

      Bangalore is one off case ….

      I am used to hear kids calling “hey dude” to my kid since 2 years …(which itself was a shock to me and i got irritated with it )

      I still am thinking that such a song should not have been played in the school, but as of now I am too tired of office work and all that I hardly think about ethics….

      and apart from that ….let kids grow as they wish to …

      (atleast u impart right values in them ….. lyrics in a song doesnt matter )

  18. Anjanpur685Miles 5 years ago

    I am sorry Baba to carry this discussion in other direction. I didnt meant to…but I was just overwhelmed by the candidness by the younger generation ..around same age of my son…

    …And I think “family audience” term is a cliché now 😀

  19. Baba 4 years ago

    #HollyShit || Episode 18 || WTF Physics – Brilliant!

    • sputnik 4 years ago

      LOL.

      This is the first time I have seen those scenes of Amitabh, Akshay and Anil and they are hilarious. Anil’s scene is on a completely different level.

      I think I had stopped watching SOS after that turban scene.

  20. AAP 4 years ago

    Baba you can add all the shit scenes in ONG BAK 2 – where the hero goofed it up and made me cringe.

    • Baba 4 years ago

      ong bak 2 was a shit film with good action. same for ong bak 3. the reason the action doesnt look better is bcos the std of action for tony jaa is too high after ong bak and tom yum goong. but the action in both ong bak and ong bak 2 is better than the best of hollywod films

      • AAP 4 years ago

        Tony Jaa was the director and producer of ONG BAK2 . So one cant blame him for the pathetic action.

        • AAP 4 years ago

          Sorry i mean tom yum gang.

          • Baba 4 years ago

            first learn to spell the movie properly. its tom yum goong.

        • Baba 4 years ago

          tony jaa was not the director of ong bak 2. he was the director of ong bak 3. and he had cheoregrahped the action of all his films from ong bak to tom yum goong to ong bak 3 and all of them had good to great to masterpiece action. show me any scene from ong bak 2 and ong bak 3 and explain how it was pathetic. its a challenge

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