Slate has a nice video essay by Dennis Lim about the evolution of fight and action scenes in cinema. His comments accompanying the clips are really interesting. I share his disapproval of much of the contemporary action genre which is either too dominated by CGI effects or else too randomly chopped up and spliced together, the ultimate aim of which is to create a feeling of sensory panic in the audience (the feeling of, "what was it I just saw?") and worse, to stun their critical faculties into submission. These directors have obviously never heard of Eisenstein and his theories of Montage. Compared to these films the early and mid eighties feel like the golden age of blockbuster action movies (Terminator et al.) I think (and as he also notes in his essay) this MTV aesthetic works well in the recent Bourne films because the visual incoherence ties in very well with the subjective state of the protagonist, who has lost his bearing in reality. And of course, one of the best uses of non-linear editing to create expressionistic effects is in boxing scenes of Raging Bull. Lim should have also included the classic Samurai films which have very elegantly choreographed fight scenes. Besides the famous ones by Kurosawa there is also Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri the sword fight scenes of which had me completely floored. Also the clip from Cronenberg's Eastern Promises seems to be truncated. For the entire scene click here. (Caution: Extreme gore and partial male nudity). It goes way too far, though I doubt about it being the "platonic ideal of fight scenes" as Lim claims.