Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Fighting" (2009) - Movie Review

“Fighting” is another form of “Redbelt” a focus on the art of fighting only though it is not about discipline in this film. It takes the deception and the simplicity of that David Mamet film along with the twists towards a character driven fight film. The movie works for various reasons, one being how Terrence Howard as the hustler and then the agent Harvey with Channing Tatum’s Shawn McArthur. That connection between them which grows upon the film makes it a believable film. And the kinetics in the four major fights are intense but not “Fight Club” bloody, unexpected and forceful but not a glorification. It does not argue or take stands of this underground fighting, rather uses it as the plot device and works on its characters with utter ease. Dito Montiel who did a strange balanced feel in his debut feature “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” has a mature eye.

The back ground of this young and tough fighter Shawn is a slow process of discovery and that is used not as the trigger for the plot but an aid in to see a purpose for his existence and doing what he does. He is hustled by Harvey on the streets and shows his fist capabilities which in escaping the con catches Harvey’s attention. In the busy corner of the New York City, it seems to be unlikely for these two meet again but they do. Harvey knows he is cornered, hands over his money and proposes to get him into the high class fights to get paid hefty by punching people to pulp. Money is large and fast which lures the man and thus the ladder up procedure to that final fight where the characters have more stake than ever happens to end the film. If it appears cheesy it is not and if you think things have been figured out, you have not. And if you think it is going to be big time suspense, twists and turns, it is not. It in its pastoral presentation of the high lighted New York City lines up its story out the platform neatly and nonchalantly.

Harvey is the know all person. The connective submissive with petty games personality amongst the big gamers in the big money arena. He came up to the city with high hopes along with his buddies Martinez (Luis Guzmán) and Jack (Roger Guenveur Smith) but he has been stopped long road away by them. When Harvey sees Shawn, there is a potential he sees but still not the one he gets. In the first fight he gets, Harvey does not have much hope for his boy and he does not do good either. What he does is that he can take punches and stand up tall. He gets the chance proper and strike that opportunity solid to knock down his opponents. Montiel is careful in what he is showing in the fights. They rip off each other with bare knuckles and it is not a pretty sight. But the choreography and camera placement is such that the brutality gets muddled in the shaky camera and resurfaces for a clear view of an effective but much less blood. Hence it is as real as the actual fight with the sword sharpness in pulling in the audience of its unpredictability.

What is the driving factor for Shawn is unclear. True that his history has some revelations for his likings in fighting but money feeding his need seems to be sufficient enough for this film though. Fighting as a sport is a tricky nature which I have always had tough time to comprehend. Boxing, Karate or other arts of fighting for a winner wonders whether emotions are hidden once the punches have vanished among the blood and sweat. But the enmity in any sports is given and this is an open invitation for a brawl to vent out. The rules though are present if not followed. It at least is enforced by a referee. Here though there is none. The only presence is the group of people cheering for their man. Which makes them scarier than the fighters because to realize such ardent drool for violence is hiding among them is unsettling. But the spectators in this films are the big players for the big money. Generally films about fighting have an obligation of the decision to enter the ring. Boxing does not need to as it is the most closely watched and conducted sport, yet the current trend of street fight and high bets with us following the lead man demands moral clearance especially when reality is stressed. And it is surprising that “Fighting” never has one and we the audience have no problematic feelings about it. May be it is because they make their case of such fighting very early an acceptance as that of boxing. It worked.

Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum are very effective in this. Howard being that low key who has strings to pull by leaking into the gaps of persistence, acquaintance and annoyance make us root for his behaviour. Tatum is casual and carries a transparency into his character of being truthful and expecting that sort from others. He is struggling in the streets to make a living and Howard accommodating is nicely shot. When Howard’s Harvey asks something more from Tatum’s Shawn of throwing a match, there is a subtle drop from Shawn to jump agents and at that time Harvey explodes with a slow escalation of anger. Those few of the scenes make “Fighting” one of the films with a very carefree, easy on its plot and characters with an effective story telling.

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