Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Hunger Games



The biggest surprise of The Hunger Games is how violent it seems. Shot for a PG-13 rating in America, and shorn of seven bleed-out seconds to get a similar UK rating, The Hunger Games doesn't dwell on the detail of death. Instead, lives are extinguished in rapid blurs and quick-cut glimpses. Teenagers are on top of each other in seconds, slashing and stabbing. Opponents square up and just terminate each other.

The mystical kung-fu neck break is a favourite - that short sharp twist perfected by the muscle lugs of the 1980s. Bruce Lee killing Jackie Chan in Enter the Dragon on fast-forward, minus all the strain and clasping intimacy. It's a person's off switch, cinematic shorthand for finality. It is routinely employed here by an all-American jock clique that roam together, laughing and joking about their enemy's death rattles. 

I'm not completely certain, but I think the Schwarzenegger neck-twist happens silently in this film. There's none of the usual crackling cavitation that you'd hear in the latest martial-arts wheeze. We are spared the sound of bones stressing and shattering, as if the visual cue is markedly less alarming. I'm not sure it is. It creates a dissonance in this viewer. The murderer's lack of effort is more alarming. Seeing someone fall dead after a brief 12A friendly shake is a shock. There isn't adequate cause for the effect. It's hilarious - by trimming all the exertion out of brutality to appease ratings boards, teen movie mangling hasn't become palatable, it has instead become something slightly startling.

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