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Brutal Brawl

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"Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear
Then I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the walls and into the street
Kicking and a-gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer."
Johnny Cash, "A Boy Named Sue"

No flashy martial arts. No Flynning. No sophisticated weaponry or tactics. Just Good Old Fisticuffs, a lot of Combat Pragmatism and a healthy dose of It's Personal.

The Brutal Brawl is a Fight Scene subtrope, focusing on hard-hitting intensity over style or flashy moves. While martial arts choreography and weapons may be used, they're more likely to be ignored in favor of the fighters beating the Christ out of each other, usually portrayed by old-fashioned stunt work. They may Trash the Set in the process, and likely use an Improvised Weapon or two (or three).

As in Real Life fights, the goal is usually to put your opponent down as quickly as possible, the loser often being the recipient of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Usually the last stage of a Combat Breakdown, and often leads to a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, as participants may be injured and weakened afterwards (and can also become a case of Violence Is Disturbing, when viewers see the realistic aftereffects of a Brutal Brawl).


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    Fan Fiction 
  • Vow of the King: Pretty much any fight that isn't a Curb-Stomp Battle is going to feature the fighters just completely brutalizing each other into one gives up or dies.
    • Ichigo's fight with Renji is particularly notable for featuring almost no usage of their zanpakuto and minimal kido. The two simply pummel each other barehanded after getting disarmed. The fight ends with Ichigo straddling Renji and repeatedly punching him in the head before finally headbutting him unconscious.

    Films — Animation 
  • The final fight in Batman Ninja between Batman and The Joker is an uncharacteristically brutal fight where they hack and bash at each other with swords and fists until both are visibly panting from the exertion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Batman pulls absolutely no punches on Lex Luthor's mooks during the warehouse fight to save Martha Kent.
  • The titular character of Danny the Dog was raised as a half-feral Dumb Muscle and serves as a extortion tool of mob boss, so brutal barehanded beatdowns are basically the whole point. It commonly involves bashing people against the walls and furniture, kicks, stomps and headbutts. Jet Li specifically altered his fighting style to match the role.
  • Day of the Outlaw: The fight between Starrett and Tex in the snowy street has no finesse: it is just two tough men hammering away at one another until one of them falls.
  • Die Hard: Every fight involving protagonist John McClane is one of these, as John is an old-fashioned, middle-aged New York cop with no extensive martial arts ability aside from standard police training.
    • The tone for the series was set with the first terrorist he takes down in Die Hard, which involves John riding on the man's back while he stumbles into anything in the area trying to knock him off, and only ending when they both fall down a flight of stairs that ends with the terrorist breaking his neck by accident.
    • He later fights that terrorist's brother, Karl, and it's even more intense since Karl is motivated by revenge. As John brutally punches Karl and slams his head into steel pipes, Karl uses somewhat-flashy kicks as a means of toying with John and making him suffer. The fight then ends with John wrapping a chain around Karl's neck and leaving him for dead.
    • Die Hard 2 plays with the trope even further in its final fight between John and the Big Bad. In the film's opening scene, the Big Bad is established as knowing a very technical and flashy style of martial arts, and he starts the fight with a knife that he stabs into John's shoulder, and John retaliates by biting out a chunk of flesh from his hand. Then, the villain starts dominating the fight very easily against the older and less-skilled McClane. John can only briefly tackle the man and punch him in the ribs before he's kicked off the plane. But at that point, it no longer matters, because John simply blows up the plane and kills all the bad guys anyway.
  • Django Unchained: Calvin Candie forces his slaves into what he calls “Mandingo fights”, and the only one we see starts off as an aggressive but otherwise normal wrestling fight and concludes with one of the fighters getting his arm broken, his eyes gouged, and his skull bashed in with a hammer, finally finishing him off.
  • Eastern Promises: a notorious scene where Nikolai is cornered in a Turkish bath by two assailants and engages them in an epic Full-Frontal Assault. Fists vs. hooked linoleum knives.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf discovers Saruman has joined forces with Sauron and a Wizard Duel erupts between the two of them. It's shown as a telekinetic staff fight, and without one laying a finger on the other the two wizards slam each other into stone walls and doors. The brutality is actually enhanced by the actors being elderly men.
    • Likewise, Aragorn's fight with the Uruk-Hai, Lurtz; a brief, nasty scuffle that features Aragorn getting his nose broken by a headbutt, Lurtz stabbed with a dagger, and finally Aragorn lopping off his arm and head. Doubles as Enforced Method Acting: Lurtz' actor Lawrence Makoare had his eyesight blurred by the contact lenses he was wearing, so instead of pulling his punches, he was actually hitting Viggo Mortensen.
  • Haywire: the protagonist's partner attacks her in their hotel room. Neither party holds back, resulting in stiff kicks, bodies being smashed through furniture and doors, and her delivering a devastating knee strike to his face. The calmest part of the fight is when she strangles him unconscious with her thighs.
  • The Incredible Hulk, with his final battle against the Abomination being full of this. From the sound of their bones breaking whenever they hit each other, to the brutal sound of the impact of their hits. Including instances of Hulk using a car as boxing gloves, and the Abomination stabbing him in the chest with the boney protuberance of his own elbow.
  • Played for laughs in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Pike is tied up by two nerdy mechanics who think he's an escaped lunatic. He attacks them in a cartoony brawl that manages to destroy their entire garage (which appears to be made of balsa wood, sugar glass and thin sheet metal).
  • Just about every fight in the John Wick franchise is more or less guaranteed to be this, as every combatant in these films is a Combat Pragmatist who will fight as viciously as they need to in order to win.
  • James Bond:
    • From Russia with Love: Bond and SPECTRE killer Red Grant beat the crap out of each other in a railway sleeping car compartment, until Bond kills Grant.
    • In GoldenEye, Bond has a hard-hitting fight at the climax with Big Bad Alec Trevelyan. No gadgets, tricks, or even background music, just the two of them smashing each other around an engine room.
    • Casino Royale: The opening features Bond's first kill - a vicious fight inside a bathroom that leaves both men bloodied and much of the room destroyed. Later, there's the fight between Bond and African terrorist Steven Obanno at the Casino Royale hotel which ends with Bond suffocating Obanno. That fight is brutal enough to traumatize Vesper Lynd.
  • The fight between the Bride and Elle Driver in Kill Bill Volume 2 goes down this way. Neither of the women is interested in the fancy kung fu maneuvers from Volume 1's House of Blue Leaves (which wouldn't be feasible in a trailer with little room to maneuver anyway), instead focusing on mean and nasty dirty brawling. At one point, the Bride tries to drown Elle in a toilet, and Elle has to flush it to save herself.
  • Pretty much all of the fights in Logan are this, especially its R-Rated Opening scene, in which Logan is beaten close to death on account of being outnumbered and slightly inebriated. When he finally does start fighting back, it quickly becomes a Curb-Stomp Battle as he brutally slices apart and impales four or five of his attackers with his claws. This adds to the movie’s more grounded nature compared to other superhero movies before it since it makes it obvious everyone in the fight is struggling, even the fighter with the advantage.
  • The Matrix: Morpheus vs. Agent Smith is a unique fight in the series; set in a cramped bathroom, minimal wire fighting, and blows that have real weight behind them (particularly Smith hitting Morpheus with rapid-fire headbutts). Eventually becomes a Curb-Stomp Battle in Smith's favor.
    • In The Matrix Revolutions Smith and Neo have a confrontation in the real world, due to Smith infecting a human member of the resistance, which allows Smith to possess the guy. Unlike the flashy, stylized martial arts confrontations that the series is known for (which all take place inside the virtual world of the Matrix) this one is notably just two men wrestling and trying to smash each other into any hard surface or grab anything that can be used as a weapon.
  • Mortal Kombat (2021): Unlike the film's flashier duels, Sonya vs. Kano takes place in Sonya's cramped house and features the two kombatants smashing each other into walls, kitchen kounters and windows, forgoing martial arts for pure fisticuffs. Sonya wins by giving Kano the most humiliating Fatality ever: death by garden gnome.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005): When Jane and John finally decide to stop playing coy after finding out the other is a spy from a rival agent, they end up having an all out brawl in their home. Guns and weapons are used at first, but they quickly disarm each other leading to a straight up fist fight between the two. Furniture is destroyed and they find out that they're not only evenly matched, but that they don't really want to kill each other because they really do love each other.
  • Parodied in Pineapple Express with the fight between Dale, Saul and Red. While it has a few hardcore moments (including Red getting his head put through both a sink and a wall), it's still three Manchild stoners who've never thrown a punch fighting, and it shows.
  • The Raid: in between the film's massive gunfights and martial arts battles is Sgt. Jaka vs. The Dragon Mad Dog. Mad Dog tosses his gun aside to use his bare hands on Jaka, and shows just how dedicated he is to the art of violence.
  • Ravenous (1999): An elaborate ending with Boyd and Colonel Ives fighting across burning rooftops was scrapped in favor of them beating the hell out of each other. Since both men are now superhuman cannibals, it takes a while.
  • Red (2010) is like this in most fights, since Frank Moses is a retired CIA special operative. His battle with Cooper in CIA headquarters is especially brutal, since both characters are combat pragmatists (and Moses trained the guy who trained Cooper). The two of them just smash each other with whatever they can get their hands on, with no regard to finesse at all.
  • Return of the Jedi: The final lightsaber battle between Luke and Darth Vader is notably smaller and more intense than previous battles in the series, especially when Luke gives into his rage and viciously hammers with his lightsaber, cutting off Vader's hand.
  • Spider-Man: Unusually for a superhero film, the final fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin takes place on the ground in a dark graveyard, and they spend much of the fight physically beating each other rather than using their more extravagant powers. The fight ends in an equally brutal way when Gobby accidentally impales himself through the waist with the blades on his glider.
  • They Live!: Nada confronts his coworker Frank in an alley following Nada's apparent killing spree. Frank is... less than receptive to his attempt to explain. What follows is six minutes of punching, screaming, headbutts, a vicious Groin Attack, and attempted Grievous Bottley Harm.
  • Total Recall: The fistfight between Melina and Lori. Rather than catfighting (as the original plan was) both actresses throw brutal punches and kicks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: in "Bug", tensions boil over between Walt and Jesse and they engage in a furious fistfight, wrecking Jesse's living room. Surprisingly Walt, a 50-year-old cancer patient, gives as good as he gets, throwing Jesse around the room and giving him a vicious kick to the face. In the next episode, Jesse sports visible facial bruises and Walt is bedridden from being beaten.
  • Hannibal: Jack Crawford's first confrontation with Dr. Lecter becomes one of these; it says something that the fight begins with Lecter throwing a knife into Jack's gun hand, only for Jack to yank it out and attack him with it. It gets more brutal from there, with Jack's brute strength matched by Hannibal's talent as an Improbable Weapon User (including butcher's knife, apron, and freezer door).
  • Kamen Rider is just as gaudy and hammy as one could expected from a Merchandise-Driven kids show and then some, sometimes crossing into being flat out surreal. That doesn't necessarily stop it from showing stuff that should by any means give Moral Guardians a heart attack right on the spot. Kamen Rider Kuuga serves as prime examples of disturbing violence for the franchise as a whole. While no stranger to brutality, gore and cruelty, the cake topper is definitely the final fight between Yusuke and Daguva N-Zeba. It starts as any other toku brawl, but quickly devolves into a bloody, barehanded fistfight.
    • This trope is to be expected from someone whose favorite pastime is beating people to death just because they were in the way, like Takeshi Asakura / Kamen Rider Ohja from Kamen Rider Ryuki. Also, his nature as an insane Blood Knight makes every fight against him a grisly ordeal. Examples include ambushing Kido and breaking his arm with a steel pipe or shoving Emu into a dumpster full of broken glass after beating the living daylight out of him (also with a steel pipe).
  • Happens all the time in The Punisher (2017). Notable examples are Frank Castle in a Mafiya-owned gym in "One Eyed Jacks", and Pilgrim versus his former Neo-Nazi gang in "The Dark Hearts Of Men".
  • An absolutely savage fight in the hotel room between Jesse and Riley in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, when the latter realizes that the former is plotting her death. It involves, among other things, eye-gouging and the use of broken glass objects as weapons.
  • The Walking Dead: In the Season 3 episode "Made to Suffer", the Governor snaps and attacks Michonne after she executes his zombified daughter. They exchange punches and choke holds, he smashes her into his collection of zombie heads, and she wins by giving him the ultimate Eye Scream with a broken glass shard.

  • Johnny Cash: "A Boy Named Sue" narrates how he's always been wandering and fighting because of the feminine name his Disappeared Dad bestowed on him. When Sue finally catches up with the old man in a saloon... well, the page quote shows what happens next.
    I tell you I've fought tougher men,
    but I really can't remember when.
    He kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • A favorite of Arcane. Fights are oftentimes hectic with sharp, hard striking and dirty tactics. By the end, characters are usually left bleeding and bruised.

    Real Life 
  • Some hand-to-hand instructors for special operations units, spy agencies, and the like actually advocate the techniques commonly seen in a Brutal Brawl over traditional martial arts. Their reasoning is twofold. Firstly, pragmatic reasoning — the most effective technique is whatever will put your opponent down quickest. Secondly, reasons of operational security — a fight that looks like an average bar or street fight will attract far less official attentionnote  than a fight in which at least one combatant is clearly a trained martial artist.
    • Krav Maga is (in)famous for eschewing most of the more graceful martial art katas in favor of simple, brutal, pragmatic stopping power. While it does incorporate strikes that can be showy, and proper form/technique is crucial, the main emphasis is on causing as much damage as possible with as little effort and as little risk. Practitioners are also encouraged to use weapons whenever possible, from blunt/weighted objects to blades and guns. Finally, nothing is off-limits, as long as it neutralizes the threat promptly: eye gouges, groin attacks, and sucker punches are among the first things learned.