I think the problem that some people seem to have with the so-called Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded is that it all feels fairly sterile. Compare it to something like the Bourne versus Desh fight from The Bourne Ultimatum–in which every blow is explosive and devastating, intended to do the most damage in the most efficient way, and the combatants and camera are literally locked in mortal combat–and it’s obvious which sequence delivers a more visceral experience.

But this aside, I really feel that the choreography of the Burly Brawl is beautiful and balletic in its way, and if any reasonable complaint can be leveled at the sequence, it’s only that it feels too choreographed. By the time the brawl arrives in the Matrix trilogy, we’re long past the point that we believe Neo can realistically be challenged. His strikes are flawless, his demeanor is constant and impassive, and it quickly becomes obvious that we’ll never even get to see him bleed, sweat, get his hair mussed, or take a fall from which he won’t immediately rebound.

As a result, there’s little drama to the Burly Brawl, and when this problem is compounded by some obvious CG (just the nature of the beast–your eye knows when it’s seeing something that’s not real, no matter how perfect you could ever make it look), it tends to lend the sequence a cartoonish sensibility.

All of that said, this remains one of the most amazing action sequences I’ve ever seen (head to the 3:00 mark to bypass all of the exposition).

[Edit: The YouTube video has since been pulled, but it should be easy enough to discover again.]

Some highlights for me:

  • 3:31 – Keanu knocks back two agents with a single left hook.
  • 5:35 – Keanu lays back horizontal to kick forward, then swings like a pendulum backward, then flip spins his entire body laterally and punches another agent in the neck.
  • 5:55 – Keanu does three continuous roundhouse kicks followed by CG Keanu doing two flying roundhouse kicks.
  • 7:08 – Keanu has two agents hold his metal pole horizontal while he slides beneath it to kick two agents on the other side, one with each leg, then spins around and karate chops the agents holding the pole in their faces. The pole drops, and he kicks it into the stomach of another rushing agent, and catches the pole when it ricochets. It’s done with a few cuts, but it’s still cool.
  • 7:36 – I know it’s ridiculous, but I love this bit in which CG Keanu gets knocked backwards, plants his pole on the ground, and uses it as a hub for about five horizontal revolutions in which he’s kicking agent after agent.
  • 8:17 – I always think of this as an Incredible Hulk shot, in which enemies have piled on, and the hero explosively shirks them off, with bodies flying everywhere.

5 Replies to “Burly”

  1. I wasn’t aware there was a name for this scene.

    Anyway… meh. I think it’s a clever idea to have Keanu fight an army of characters, and they certainly carried it off as well as anybody could’ve hoped, but it doesn’t do it for me. I don’t care how many people you throw against Neo, if I don’t care, well, I don’t care. The training fight between Neo and Morpheus in the first film was ten times more exciting and thrilling than this nonsense in my opinion.

    But, as you said, this came kind of late in the film, so I probably already had checked out by that point. It just wasn’t a very good movie in my opinion. But, taken on its own, it’s a fun scene to watch.

  2. Yeah, as I said, I understand the dramatic problems with scene, but in terms of pure technique, I think it’s pretty stunning.

    On the whole, I liked The Matrix Reloaded, but it wasn’t without its problems.

  3. And for the record, Keanu Reeves kicks ass. The stuff he actually physically pulls off in this sequence, wire-fu or not, is pretty impressive.

  4. My main problem with the Matrix films is that they are just bad sci-fi, in my opinion. The concept of a world taken over by machines who use humans as a power source is ingenious, but the idea that there is a messianic “chosen one” born with the power to control the code of the Matrix is silly and nonsensical. That was ok for one film, since it was such an awesome movie, but when they tried to stretch it out to a trilogy it fell flat.

    But they are neat to watch. Have you seen Speed Racer? If you haven’t, you really should. It’s a better movie than the Matrix sequels.

  5. Well, you’ll get no argument from me that the first film would have been fine standing on its own, but I didn’t hate the sequels either. At worst, they were forgettable. Especially the third. I almost couldn’t tell you anything that happened in that film. At least The Matrix Reloaded had a lot of memorable fight scenes and some new, interesting characters.

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