Empire (Australasia) - - THE COMFORT ZONE - HE­LEN O’HARA

LEG­END HAS IT that the Fast & Fu­ri­ous 5 punch-up between Vin Diesel and the Rock orig­i­nally had its own three-act struc­ture. But this scene, de­scribed in Wil­liam Gold­man’s script as “the great­est duel ever fought”, has all that and a banana, even fit­ting in a nar­ra­tive twist. The op­po­nents are Inigo Mon­toya (Mandy Patinkin), a mas­ter swords­man and re­venge afi­cionado, and the Man In Black (Cary El­wes), a mys­tery.

The two swords­men feint, test­ing one an­other’s form and com­par­ing notes on tech­nique in a flow of pat­ter. They trade blows in a flicker of light­ning-fast moves, up and down the un­even ground of a ru­ined fortress.

Fought to a stand­still, Inigo ad­mits that he is not left-handed, switches to his dom­i­nant hand and at last chal­lenges his op­po­nent. But, twist! “I’m not left-handed either,” says the Man In Black, as ev­ery viewer cheers.

It’s all a trib­ute to the glory days of Dou­glas Fair­banks and Er­rol Flynn (fight chore­og­ra­pher Bob An­der­son ac­tu­ally worked with Flynn), and to months of in­tense train­ing by both ac­tors. But this is not sim­ply a phys­i­cal mas­ter­piece; it’s one of the fun­ni­est du­els ever, between the Man In Black’s im­pec­ca­ble man­ners and over­whelm­ing skill, and Inigo’s grow­ing des­per­a­tion. Gold­man set a high bar for this one; the amaz­ing thing is that the cast and crew de­liv­ered.

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