Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Short Film Review: Dogfight

Late one night, two bounty hunters (Nate Hitpas and Jessie Bayani) cautiously approach a seemingly empty dojo.  Inside, a corrupt sensei (Shawn Bernal) trains in solitude.  Determined to apprehend their prey, the pair enters the establishment.  Unfortunately for them, the able bodied master has no intention of being carted away in restraints.  Will the hunters claim their prize, or will the master emerge triumphant?  

Dogfight is the latest effort from LBP Stunts Chicago.  As evidenced by the above plot summary, the storyline is the very model of simplicity.  That is as it should be.  Such expediency is a hallmark of the martial arts genre.  Dogfight gets right down to business.  It lives up to its title by exhibiting the ferocity of a rabid pit-bull.

Dogfight will most certainly draw comparisons to a very similar fight in The Raid: Redemption.  That is hardly surprising, as the LBP stunt team already paid homage to the film earlier this year with a rather impressive “practice video.”  Here, they prove their filmmaking mettle by matching The Raid’s frenetic pace in almost every way imaginable. 

When Rama and Andi took on Mad Dog in The Raid, it was in relatively close quarters.  By comparison, Dogfight has much more elbow room.  Despite having a much larger playground, the film is fairly conservative in its use of space.  The fight itself seems confined to a quartered off portion of the room.

The roomier setting thankfully does not impact the ferocity or the intimacy of the fisticuffs, as the combatants (and by extension the viewer) always seem squarely focused on the task at hand.  The camera follows the action as though handled by an energetic yet disciplined operator.  Dogfight contains some of LBP’s most accomplished cinematography yet.  Near the two minute mark, it whirls around the three main characters as the events unfold.  It’s done in a single take that culminates in a particularly effective instance of slow motion photography.

There are slight variations between the characters fighting styles.  The master is given to throwing haymakers.  Leather Jacket, as he is named in the credits, adopts a Donnie Yen style boxing stance at one point.  The fight choreography exhibits the true spirit of mixed martial arts, as much of it has a refreshingly improvisational feel.  These men aren’t married to any particular fighting method.  They seamlessly adapt to the given situation.

A few weeks ago, Shawn Bernal described Dogfight as the best thing that LBP stunts had ever done, and I’m very much inclined to agree with him.  It’s the living embodiment of the old writing technique known as “Show, don’t tell.”  Not a word of dialogue is spoken, yet a complete story gets told.  It doesn’t matter why these three men are fighting, or how they happened to cross paths.  All that matters is conflict at hand.  

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