Road House | The cunning trickery behind the remake’s hard-hitting fight scenes

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Road House stunt coordinator Garrett Warren came up with a clever means of making the remake’s fights look realistic without breaking any bones.

Whether or not you think it’s sacrilege to remake the 1989 cult favourite, Road House, it’s arguable that director Doug Liman directed his fight scenes with gleeful rawness – faces are pummelled, bodies are sent crashing through tables, and backsides are well and truly kicked.

It’s possible that Liman’s full-frontal method of shooting his hand-to-hand combat scenes may have left you wondering: how do you make it look as though UFC star Conor McGregor’s just punched Jake Gyllenhaal square in the face without landing the Hollywood star in hospital?

Shared on Twitter over the weekend, a brief clip shows off an intriguing method that stunt coordinator Garrett Warren came up with for the production – what he calls the ‘four-pass’ or ‘ABCD method’.

In essence, this breaks down each shot into multiple passes, with an actor striking a pad as hard as they can in one take and their victim reacting to being struck with a pad in a separate shot. These separate takes are then composited together on top of a third shot – that of a ‘clean’ background that doesn’t contain actors – to create the illusion of a brutally harsh blow.

A fourth take, of the actors miming the same fight moves in slow-motion, was also captured and used in certain sequences. Take a look:

Speaking to Total Film, Warren revealed that he initially came up with the technique on James Cameron’s Avatar, but didn’t end up using it; he also added that he thought he’d only use the idea occasionally through the Road House shoot, but discovered that Liman wanted to use it constantly.

“I thought, ‘OK, we’ll do this magic trick once or twice, maybe three times,”’ Warren said. ‘But no, not with Doug. Doug wanted to do it the whole time. The shots were never cut. When you see this movie, the fights are way beyond any fight that has ever been filmed in cinema history.”

Read more: Road House review | Jake Gyllenhaal is the standout in a boisterous remake

Not that compositing actors together to create a powerful-looking blow is entirely without precedent in movie-making. In a separate Tweet over the weekend, veteran martial arts star Scott Adkins shared a clip of an interview with Johnny Trí Nguyễn, in which the actor-filmmaker described how he used a remarkably similar technique to create the illusion of a spectacular mid-air kick to the head in his 2007 movie, The Rebel:

Ultimately, it’s all about creating action sequences that have impact and weight, but minimise the risk – not to mention pain – borne by the industry’s hard-working stunt performers.

Road House is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

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