apropos of nothing

Who’s the Better Action Director: David Gordon Green or Christopher Nolan?

Courtesy of Sony, Warner Bros.

Much is being made over Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green’s inexplicable overnight transition from indie auteur (the one behind slow-paced tone poems like George Washington and All the Real Girls) to helmer of a Judd Apatow marijuana-glorifying fart comedy, a job for which he has practically no relevant experience. The other night, Vulture took a rare trip outdoors to catch a screening of Pineapple and what impressed us most wasn’t Green’s ability to coax funny performances out of Seth Rogen and James Franco (this couldn’t have been too hard, right?) but the fact that the movie’s action scenes — the ones that Manohla Dargis calls “crudely choreographed and just the kind of big finish a dead-ended writer or two might come up with while searching for a third act and lighting up to a Steven Seagal flick in the wee hours” — weren’t nearly as crappy as we thought they’d be.

In Pineapple, Rogen and Franco flex their acting muscles as a pair of stoners on the run from hit men and drug lords (including Darryl from The Office, hilariously), and (spoiler alert) the movie climaxes in a fifteen-minute shoot-out in a barn. Obviously Green is no John Woo, but the scene is lucid, well paced, and nowhere near as stupid-looking as one might reasonably anticipate, especially considering that it includes shots of Rogen firing an automatic weapon. There are explosions, bleeding injuries, and some passably impressive stunt work, not bad for a freakin’ Judd Apatow movie. Surely it helps that Rogen is fat and slow-moving, but we could actually tell what was happening the entire time — more than we can say for the action sequences in this summer’s biggest hit, The Dark Knight.

In Knight (which we loved, honest!), poorly lit punching and kicking are edited together, seemingly at random, into an incoherent, motion-sick scramble. It’s only when we see Batman still standing over toppled enemies that we can tell he’d actually been winning the whole time. But that movie was directed by Christopher Nolan, who’d already made a violent superhero movie and ostensibly should know what he’s doing, while Pineapple Express was directed by Green, a guy who’d never shot an explosion in his life. Sure, the action in Nolan’s film is more ambitious, but the fact that Green’s is infinitely more coherent and suspenseful is … well, sort of funny, right?

Who’s the Better Action Director: David Gordon Green or Christopher Nolan?