Something synonymous with cinema and television is the montage: a collection of images which helps the audience understand the passing of time without actually, you know, taking all that
Never is such a technique more prevalent than in sports content; usually in the form of training regimes. Whether our protagonist is readying himself for the fight of his life, mastering that bullet pass to his Wide Receiver, or prepping to settle the score on the racetrack, we as viewers are exercised and exhausted by the copious dedication to the cause.
But how would some of these montage workouts actually benefit the spectator in real life? Could we adopt a new skill for weight training in the gym, or perhaps adhere to a new work ethic when applying ourselves to recreational activities and indeed life?
Ahead of the UK release of this Friday’s release of Kickboxer: Vengeance starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Alain Moussi, Georges St-Pierre and Gina Carano, we are here to get you pumped up and ready for action with our Ultimate Movie Montage Workout.
Now drop and give me twenty…
Over The Top (1987)
It is somewhat heartbreaking that so few celebrate Sylvester Stallone’s work in what is surely amongst the definitive “Best Worst Movies” ever made. This is all you need to know about Over The Top: our hero attempts to win back his son by triumphing in an arm wresting contest. It is quite possibly the most amazingly idiotic set-up imaginable.
But whilst the 1987 sports-actioner is extremely silly, it also features a fantastic and unintentionally homoerotic montage sequence in which Stallone’s rough-and-tumble trucker Lincoln Hawk (great name…) preps himself for competition by performing yoga stretches and makeshift tricep pull-downs in the desert whilst Kenny Loggins’ “Meet Me Half Way” plays. We are not kidding.
IN REAL LIFE: The scene shows that the discipline of arm wrestling isn’t all about strength, rather stamina and focus, and that philosophy can be easily adapted for real-life training exercises.
Pumping Iron (1977)
The original and perhaps greatest documentary about the sport and indeed art of bodybuilding. When an athlete’s truest competition is themselves, there is little wonder why the desire to increase muscle mass and shrink body fat can be all-consuming, but the notion that taking steroids or performance-enchancers means all the work is done for you is probably the biggest lie every told. Even with “assistance”, the strain and dedication to the cause is meteoric.
In this scene from Pumping Iron, Hollywood royalty and Mr. Olympia World Champion Arnold Schwarzenegger trademarks what has become the utmost desire for any and all gymrats world-over: “The Pump”. Particularly when you train biceps, the feeling of inflation and tenseness in the muscle is what drives many – this author included – to keep training, and to keep pushing harder.
IN REAL LIFE: Applying this level of persistence to your workouts will not only ensure growth and gains, but also the lust to keep returning to the iron.
Whilst we eagerly await the 2016 title, it seems fitting to reflect on the bruising brilliance of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1989 original. Kickboxer – much like many titles of the era – has a warm cheesiness which makes for enjoyable repeat viewing. The tongue-in-cheek attitude paired with the intensity of the training will always bring a smile and a sharp exhale of breath as our protagonist gets a coconut slammed on his abdomen…
Similar to fellow sports-action flick Bloodsport, this scene shows Van Damme’s Kurt Sloane readying for battle as he trains out in the wilderness with the assistance of an Asian martial arts master. From having his legs stretched by ropes, to practicing kicks underwater, and even slow-motion flying roundhouses, there is no fighting stone unturned here. What the scene shows the audience is that training opportunities are everywhere.
IN REAL LIFE: You may not have access to the greatest equipment or resources, but that doesn’t mean you cannot workout. Use Mother Nature to her advantage and start sculpting your strongest self.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001)
You are probably thinking “wait, what!?”, but let us explain. Firstly the musical special episode of Joss Whedon’s cult masterpiece Buffy the Vampire Slayer is genius. “Once More, With Feeling” was, and still remains, a landmark televisual event which showed audiences just how diverse the material could be when constructed into another genre framework, but it also provided us with an amazing montage sequence.
Here Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy train for the fight ahead as he delicately sings and throws sharp objects. Our Sunnydale Slayer kicks away knives, beats down on a punchbag and performs acrobatic flips and vaults, showing that even in softer moments, she is still a force to be reckoned with.
IN REAL LIFE: Music is a flagship part of not only these scenes, but of training. It helps motivate and captivate us; pushing to go the extra mile when we feel like giving up. Pop this episode’s tunes into your headphones before your next cardio session and go the distance.
Never Back Down (2007)
Undoubtedly a stone-cold, no-shame guilty pleasure, Never Back Down arrived hot-on-the-heels of the growing interest in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). Kickboxer: Vengeance is just one film to adopt former MMA fighters for the big screen thanks to Georges St-Pierre and Gina Carano’s involvement. Telling the cliché tale of the new kid who must prove himself to get the girl (yawn…), the 2007 fighting flick serves better when we get down to the fisticuffs.
Sean Faris’ Jake gets put through his paces in this sequence as MMA trainer Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou) has him throwing cinderblocks, taking relentless punches to the gut and slapping him around the head with training pads, all whilst a now socially-irrelevant pop-punk track blares. Still, just like in every sports movie montage, watching our hero start to succeed is satisfying, and he masters some cool kettle ball tricks and lifts which many could attempt when they next hit the gym.
IN REAL LIFE: The scene also shows audiences that having the mentality to do better will earn plentiful results; a valuable lesson for fitness and indeed life.
Varsity Blues (1999)
Sometimes the purpose of a montage sequence isn’t merely to highlight progression. Instead it can be flipped and present the spectator with a catalogue of errors as 1999’s Varsity Blues managed so expertly. After a heavy night of drinking, and a gaggle of sore heads on game day, small-town Texan high-school team the West Canaan Coyotes need to shape up and claim the win on Friday night, but instead they get pummelled, and the bruising defeat plays out in perfect slow motion.
James Van Der Beek’s back-up QB needs to earn his position as team leader on the gridiron, and despite doing a valiant job calling plays and getting his offense arranged, the fumbles, sacks and picks are everywhere to be seen.
IN REAL LIFE: It is both brilliant and bitter to watch, but it highlights an important lesson for viewers: sometimes accepting defeat graciously is better than winning obnoxiously. The Coyotes were outplayed and under-prepared, and they paid the price for it.
Cool Runnings (1993)
There is simply no question: Cool Runnings is one of the greatest sports movies of all-time. In fact, Disney’s 1993 classic remains one of modern cinema’s truly joyous experiences. No matter how many times viewed, it brings both smiles and tears as we see the development of the first Jamaican bobsled team who go on to become heroes of the Winter Olympics.
In this sequence the late, great John Candy preps his squad of track sprinters in the art of sledding; from mastering the push-start and mechanisms, to adapting to the ferociously cold temperatures: a far-cry from the radiant Caribbean sunshine.
IN REAL LIFE: The most valuable lessons for both training and attitude the film teaches is that of belief. Just because it isn’t the norm for a Jamaican team to take on the slopes doesn’t mean it cannot or should not happen. You might be struggling to increase that weight or clock in that 5K speed today, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to overcome it.
Somehow Creed did the impossible: pay beautiful homage to the franchise it owes a debt to, yet feel completely singular and unique. Just how Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis isn’t happy to ride on the back of his father’s name, Ryan Coogler’s film isn’t happy to ride on the back of the Rocky name. Despite a US release date in 2015, this is very much a 2016 title for UK audiences, and one thinks many will be in agreement that it is amongst the year’s best.
Balancing both the breathless training preparation ahead of his big fight whilst caring for Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Italian Stallion’ as his health deteriorates, this montage sequence packs a poignant wallop which stings just like Donny’s ruthless right hook. Paired with a rapturous and tenderly arranged score which gets the heart thumping, this is a triumphant moment from a triumphant motion picture.
IN REAL LIFE: It also shows audiences how to take advantage of locations for their fitness programmes: flights of stairs, hallways and waiting rooms are all spaces which can be optimised to get your mind and body in-check.
Little Big League (1994)
Whilst Dion’s “Runaround Sue” might not initially seem like a song that makes sense for a baseball movie, Little Big League isn’t exactly your stereotypical title. The film’s premise follows an 11-year-old kid who becomes the owner and the manager of the Minnesota Twins after the team is bequeathed to him.
In one of the film’s few fully-fledged sporting sequences, we get to see an exhilarating game unfold, brilliantly weaved with delicate splices of humanity. Oh, and dancing; lots of dancing. The giddy, bouncing music actually lends well to the scene, providing a joyous texture to the Twins’ success as they hit Homers and force the Cleveland Indians to strike out.
IN REAL LIFE: Ensuring sports and fitness remains a leisurely activity is most important for longevity. The moment it feels like a chore, the sooner you’ll quit. So make sure you have a song and dance every so often. Celebrate those victories; no matter how little.
Rocky IV (1985)
It would border on a criminal offence to pen a feature about montage sequences and not include one from the Rocky franchise. In truth, each montage sequence from each Rocky movie could have warranted a place here, but we’ve attempted to pick the very best, and it comes in the shape of Rocky IV.
What makes this particular training scene so perfect is the way it deftly develops character in the process. We cross-cut between Sylvester Stallone’s heroic underdog boxer taking on ferocious Mother Nature as he dashes, prances and pulls sleds in the freezing frost, and his rival Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who is benefitting from scientific research and the highest quality equipment.
The scene isn’t just empowering and motivational; it also maintains a large percentage of the picture’s fundamental narrative, without feeling rushed or over-inflated.
IN REAL LIFE: From insane jump-roping to horse-cart lifts, from log-chopping to screaming from a mountain top, absolutely everything is here, making for a montage mogul’s dream. The scene is so fist-pumping and adrenaline-endusing that it should be shown to any boxing or fitness prospect; push yourself, defy your limitations and become the very best you can be.
And with that, we are off to workout…
Catch the film on VOD on Friday, the 30th of September and check out all the release info on Kickboxer: Vengeance right here.