Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chase Mayhem

Somebody's always running away from something or running toward something.

That's the chase.

Love it or hate it, movies got 'em. And have had them for a long, long time. And as is always the case in movies, the more different the chase, or the bigger the chase the better. So cinema history has shown us a good many different ways to engage in a chase. On foot, in car, in boat, in the air, on lightcycle, in spaceship, and probably anything else you can imagine. The weirder the better it seems. Although I will say that the recent chase scene in the opening of Casino Royale gives me faith that classic chase scenes are still alive and doing quite well thanks to a good script and proper direction.

All good action movies have some kind of a chase in them. A good guy chasing a bad guy, a bad guy chasing an innocent guy, a bad guy chasing a badder guy. All good romance movies involve a chase between a man and a woman, or a woman and a man, and if we're really lucky a woman and a woman. And all good horror movies involve a chase of some kind. Usually someone running away from something scary into something scarier.

There are lots of chases and I've highlighted a few and judged them as all good chases should be judged: What kind of chase is it, the setting of the chase, the length of the chase, and the enormity of the chase and the big finish.

The Blues Brothers

What kind of chase: A car chase involving several cop cars. Not incredibly original. But the fact that the Blues Brothers are driving a cop car making it cop on cop action takes it up a notch. Rank: 7

Setting of the chase: The streets of Chicago and then inside a mall. The mall is good. Rank: 9

The length of the chase: About 5 minutes. The chase is so fun, the time flies. Rank: 7

The enormity of the chase: Did I mention it was in a mall? Retail gets scattered everywhere and hundreds run for cover as The Blues Brothers wreak havoc. Rank: 8

Best chase quote: "They're not going to catch us, we're on a mission from God." Rank: 9

The big finish: The Blues Brothers get away and leave the mall through a display window of JC Penny. Did I mention they were in a mall? Rank: 8

Overall rank: 8


What kind of chase: Actually a race involving lightcycles in a parallel universe that exists inside our computers. Jeff Daniels is being chased down by the MCP and is making him play games in hopes that he will die. Rank: 8

Setting of the chase: Inside a computer somewhere. A giant green grid surrounded by large walls and heavily guarded by big machines. The computer generated animation over live action was breakthrough for the time and still is amazing to watch. Rank: 9

Length of the chase: The race runs only about a minute long and they escape the grid and get chased by tanks. It all only lasts a couple minutes, which is the perfect amount of time. Any longer would seem self-indulgent. Rank: 8

Enormity of the chase: Three programs die in the process and Jeff Daniels sends a shock wave rattling the MCPs circuits. Rank: 6

Best chase quote: "Wow". Wow indeed. Rank: 7

The big finish: They win the race and get away. No big fireworks. Rank: 6

Overall rank: 7.3


What kind of chase: Parachutes and hang gliding. After fleeing a plane, Bond (sans parachute) is chasing after the pilot in pursuit of his parachute, while being chased by Jaws who of course wants to bite his neck. While a mess of a bond movie, this opening chase scene is fantastic. Rank: 10

Setting of the chase: The air, baby. Nothing above and the hard ground below. Rank: 8

Length of the chase: The actual chase is only a couple of minutes. As cool and original as this chase is, it isn't long enough and the coverage is lousy due to the bad double for Roger Moore. Rank: 6

Enormity of the chase: Not big at all. This chase really affects no one besides I guess the birds. Rank: 4

Best chase quote: "Any higher Mr. Bond, my ears will pop." Classic cheesy Bond. Not really a fan of the cute talk: Rank: 6

Big finish: Jaws tries to bite Bond's leg, Bond pulls the parachute cord leaving Jaws tumbling towards the earth. Jaws' cord fails and he goes plummeting into a circus tent. Whah, whah, whah. Rank: 3

Overall rank: 6.1

Silence Of The Lambs

What kind of chase: On foot between Starling and Buffalo Bill. No running, just a cat and mouse where you expect Bill around every corner. This is a creepy creepy scene. Rank: 8

Setting of the chase: The labyrinth of rooms in Bill's basement where it seems that every door that Starling opens exposes a new horror. Rank: 10

Length of the chase: About six minutes which seems like six hours because it's so damn creepy. You want it that long and don't want it that long all at the same time. Rank: 9

Enormity of the chase: This affects every big boned woman in America who is afraid that their skin is one day going to be used to make a nice suit for Bill. This is America's most wanted man so the impact of getting him dead or behind bars is big. Rank: 8

Best chase quote: "Catherine Martin? F.B.I. you're safe." Don't you believe it. Rank: 7

Big finish: As if the tension wasn't enough, Bill shuts out the lights and puts on night vision goggles and suddenly we go from Foster's P.O.V. to that of Bills as he gets ready to attack her. It is a truly terrifying scene to see the terror on Clarice's face as she tries to figure out where Bill is in the room. Finally, a glimmer of the glasses shows up and Clarice squeezes off round after round until Bill is on the ground. And you still don't feel safe. Rank: 10

Overall rank: 8.6

Raising Arizona

Kind of chase: On foot and in the car and on foot again and in the car again. It's not terribly original, but the alternating is fun. Rank: 7

Setting of the chase: A surreal life where everybody's packing and isn't afraid to shoot. The chase begins in a quick shop, goes through a grocery store and through a house. It's fun, funny and one hell of a ride. Rank: 8

Length of the chase: The actual chase is a little over five minutes. It covers a lot of settings and a lot of ground. Rank: 7

Enormity of the chase: Hi's bad habits die hard and it stirs quite a pot involving a teenage store employee, the grocery store owner, a bunch of dogs, the local authorities and of course a very pissed off Ed. Rank: 8

Best chase quote: "Son you got a pantie on your head." Rank: 9

Big finish: Hi escapes in the car with Ed and gets away unscathed. It's not a huge finish, but you find yourself trying to catch your breath at the end. Rank: 7

Overall rank: 7.6

The Dead Pool

Kind of chase: It's car versus remote controlled car. Interesting. Rank: 9

Setting of the chase: The streets of San Francisco. Not original but I've never seen cars catch air like this before. Or at least a remote control car catch air like that before Rank: 8

Length of the chase: Around 4 1/2 minutes. Maybe a few too many jumps, but overall a good time. Rank: 7

Enormity of the chase: Callahan disrupts a lot of Bay area people with his crazy driving. And he's supposed to keep the peace. On the flip side, everyone seems to love the remote control car, especially when it jumps some boxes on the sidewalk. Rank: 6

Best chase quote: "Times up Callahan." Rank: 6

The big finish: The remote control car slowly pulls under Callahan's car. Callahan waits and waits and just as it parks under his car, Callahan takes off to avoid the bomb. He succeeds only in saving his skin. His partner dies in the explosion and the bad guy gets away. Rank: 7

Overall rank: 7.1

Road Warrior

What kind of chase: Cars and trucks and motorcycles chasing a tanker. In real life, this would be boring, but this is the future and Mad Max is at the wheel. Rank: 8

Setting of the chase: A post apocalyptic world set in Australia where there's nothing for miles. Rank: 6

Length of the chase: I've only included part of the chase, but it's a long one. Around 15 minutes. It's a great action sequence that deserves all this time it gets. Rank: 8

Enormity of the chase: They're not disturbing anyone but you feel the fate of the future is in the balance with this chase. If the gas gets in the hands of The Humongous, bad things will happen. So this is big. Rank: 8

Best chase quote: No quotes of note, and that's just fine since there are only about 20 lines in the whole movie. Rank: 6

Big finish: About everyone dies, except that Land Of The Lost kid with the boomerang and Mad Max. The tanker is overturned and Mad Max discovers that he was hauling sand this whole time. It's the big double cross and Max was mad already. Now he's really mad. Rank: 10

Overall rank: 7.6

Basic Instinct

What kind of chase: Car chase. Nothing truly original. Rank: 6

Setting of the chase: The mountains of California. The cat and mouse pursuit of Douglas and Stone makes you feel that if Hitchcock were still directing, he would shoot a scene like this. Rank: 10

Length of the chase: About a minute and a half. Short, sweet and intense. Rank: 8

Enormity of the chase: They're not shaking the pillars of heaven, but they are creating a bit of havoc around some afternoon traffic in a pretty treacherous area. Rank: 6

Best chase quote: None. Not really needed. Rank: 5

Big finish: Douglas stays in line with Stone for a while and then almost goes nose to nose with a bus. He decides then to back off a bit and let traffic slow down. Stone gets away. Rank: 6

Overall rank: 6


Burbanked said...

GREAT post with a lot of classic chase sequences that don't get a lot of attention; nice job indeed!

I will frequently say movie lines to my young sons who of course don't ever get the references but just think they're funny. Some day - I hope - they'll get the jokes and either think I'm a dork or a cool-ass dad.

And naturally, a frequent one of these is "Son, you've got a pantie on your head."

Anonymous said...

Well done, Piper.

I also enjoyed how Casino Royale was kickin' it fairly old school with a lot of its action, but a chase I recently enjoyed more was a particularly lengthy one found in Grindhouse. It had me literally on the edge of my seat the entire time.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

Great list, but you left out the two best of all time, BULLITT and THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

PIPER said...

I went more for diversity then the best of. The French Connection is excellent but I don't understand why everyone loves the Bullitt chase so much. I've seen it over and over again trying to catch what I missed. There are so many better chase scenes.

I'm going to go out on a limb here but to me McQueen is highly overrated.

Anonymous said...

Piper I love you :)

Great post! I loved the inclusion of the lightcycle sequence from Tron, which just goes to show that wonderful direction and editing can make a sequence, despite having limited special effects ... it still works today.

Also, I LOVE Raising Arizona, and that chase is just wonderful. Great music for it, it's funny and thrilling all at the same time.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

"I don't understand why everyone loves the Bullitt chase so much. I've seen it over and over again trying to catch what I missed. There are so many better chase scenes."

Are you serious????

Just posted a response over at my blog.

PIPER said...


Saw your post and responded to it.

That's why I love film baby. So many movies, so many things to love and debate.

Adam Ross said...

Oh no you didn't! Yes, you blogged about The Dead Pool! I've always wondered how many times onset Clint muttered "now they've got me being chased around by goddamned toys, fuck this I'm done with acting -- I'm a director now."

Road Warrior is one of my favorite movies, at one point in my life I watched it every other day -- with Mad Max making up the other days. The chases in Mad Max are brutally raw because they were made with so little money.

PIPER said...

The Dead Pool was a mess of a movie but I actually liked the remote control car chase. As an idea. Not an execution.

Damian Arlyn said...

Great post, Piper. Some memorable chases there. A few other (as yet un-mentioned) movies with chases that I like are Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ronin, Die Hard with a Vengeance and the two Bourne films.

garrett said...

Wow. Very nice. That looked like it took some time. Nice depth on each chase scene.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the best chase scene starring Dabney Coleman. From Short Time -

Mostly cliche (he crashes through, glass, construction sites, and water cooler bottles) but a little different since he's trying to kill himself for the insurance money.

brian said...

I think you need to add "No Country for Old Men" to the chase conversation. The entire movie is a chase.