Film School: Bad Editing in Action

Taken 3 (2014) Taken 3 (2014)

Examples of bad editing – and other examples of how to be better.

Fast-paced cutting is often used to create or support the energy in a sequence. Often, it’s used to create an illusion of energy which may be lacking in the shots themselves. And sometimes, edits are used to hide lacklustre (or even absent) stunt work. One notorious example is this moment from Taken 3 (2014):

In action films, editors often “cut around” the limitations of the performers – particularly in shots which need to feature the faces of actors whose strengths aren’t necessarily physical performance. However, with creative conceiving and careful planning, there are alternatives to cutting. One technique is the “cowboy switch”, or swapping the character actor with the stunt performer without cutting, as in this example from Hot Fuzz (2007) (the shot begins at 1:16):

The ideal situation, of course, is when your character actor is your stunt performer. Sticking with fence-jumping as our basis, let’s compare Bryan Mills to Jackie Chan:

The lack of cutting showcases Jackie Chan‘s talents as a physical performer – and in particular, as a physical comedy performer, as examined so wonderfully by Every Frame A Painting:

Further Viewing

Bad editing also happens in dialogue scenes too – we look at a couple of examples, and the lessons we can learn from them:

Bad editing in Bohemian Rhapsody
‘Terrible’ Editing in Kong: Skull Island

Folding Ideas looks at editing over the course of entire films, and how smaller details and choices can affect bigger storytelling and viewing experiences: