Branagh’s action scenes

by Tom Ingram

Just watched Dead Again. It’s a pretty entertaining throwaway movie except for the two action scenes, which are laughable. In the first one, Branagh is chasing somebody down the street. He’s lagging behind by about five feet–not far, but far enough that he can’t reach. He dives for the man’s legs, and it’s clear that he will fall short. Then, in the next shot, Branagh (or more likely a stunt double) actually has grabbed the man’s legs and tripped him. This character, who we later find out is an actor, proceeds to attack Branagh with hilariously stilted but effective kung-fu. The other scene is the climax, where through a series of wacky events the villain ends up impaled on a sculpture of scissors.

This got me thinking, though: it’s clear that Kenneth Branagh, whatever his qualities as a director or actor, is incapable of handling action. The soldiers in Henry V looked like they were afraid of hurting each other–which they may well have been, but it is supposed to be the director’s job to notice that and tell them to stop it. The duel and subsequent storming of the castle in Hamlet is just one silly turn after another, with people rappelling through skylights, swinging on chandeliers, and hurling swords across the great hall of the castle with deadly accuracy. And don’t even get me started on Thor. The whole thing was a mess.