An Analysis of Fight Form in Hollywood Cinema

Under Siege (1992)

Steven Seagal movies tend to have a certain style of hand combat, a fast-paced flurry of limbs. To create the sense of speed and frenzy the camera will jerk left and right, this movement is synchronized with Seagal’s punches. This formal feature, always produced in a Seagal movie, ensures that a sense of visual/sensual realism is produced. A sense of being “in the moment” which ensures a relationship is produced in the audience which helps the action seem authentic. Cine-psychoanalytical theory, maintaining that the first level of relationship is with the camera, illuminates why this is important.

If the first relationship of the audience is with the camera itself then any movement in relation to the action by the camera becomes vital in producing a sense of suspended disbelief; the necessary condition for someone to be able to enjoy a Seagal film (that and lots of testosterone or beer). The actual fighting scenes in Under Siege (1992) are very poor and usually end in some over-the-top final move from Seagal such as pushing a henchman’s shoulder into a cutting blade. The hand-to-hand combat tends to be several jerky stabs forward into the air with a few blocks, utterly unimpressive however at first glance these flaws are not so apparent because of the camera movement.

The movement of the camera, synchronized with Seagal’s punches, ensures that the audience can fully buy in to the proposed fictional happenings. The relationship of audience to camera is manipulated to ensure the produced affect of suspended belief.