Just the other day I saw the big-time Hollywood fight movie ‘Fighting’ with Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard and by chance I followed that up with this considerably lower budget film ‘Fight Night’ with Rebecca Neuenswander and Chad Ortis in almost identical roles to Tatum and Howard in a very, very similar movie. Though it probably isn’t fair to compare the two because I’m pretty sure they were developed completely independent of each other and one cost a billion dollars to make and the other had a budget around 8 bucks, but quite honestly the only thing that ‘Fighting’ had over ‘Fight Night’ is the budget for in many ways this was the better movie.
The film opens with our hero of suspect moral value Michael Dublin (Ortis) narrating while repairing himself from what looks to be a major ass kicking. Without knowing what this movie is about, initially I thought this was the fighting cat, but no, he’s a scurrilous independent promoter of various sporting events and this ass kicking was delivered his way due something or another he did, and an ass kicking he earned quite legitimately. One particular day after okey-doking some tough looking dudes he shouldn’t have tried to run the okey-doke on, it’s looking like Michael has graduated from simply getting beat up to getting murdered until fate steps in. Fate would be named Katherine Parker, a tall slender green-eyed woman with a terrible attitude and a mean left hook. For whatever reason Katherine didn’t want to see Michael die that night and saves his skin, and for her heroic act she now has this shyster trying to run his game on her.
But at least it’s a give and take because Katherine
loves to fight but can’t get in the game and Michael has
the connects but no fighter. Eventually Katherine turns
her career over to Michael and the two embark on a
whirlwind tour across the south with Katherine knocking
dudes out and Michael raking in the cash. But both have
a past. Katherine’s past is in Mormon-centric Utah with
parents who don’t quite understand girls who like girls,
and Michael's past is in Kentucky where he’s left behind
weighty baggage along with his southern accent. Both fighter and promoter have a linked past in a fight promoter named Richter (Kurt Hanover) who Michael used to work for and who Katherine once fought for. Richter sees some nice money making opportunities in Katherine but these opportunities would require her to do something less than honest in these fights, something she’s simply not willing to do. Problem is if she doesn’t then Michael faces murderization yet again. Regardless, some unfortunate stuff happens, boy and girl are at major odds but this is a fight movie and you know somehow, someway it has to culminate in a major fight with everything on the line. Everything. Money, honor, family, life… everything is on the line.
One of the things that ‘Fight Night’ asks… no begs you to buy into that is that Rebecca Neusenwander who I’m guessing stands about 5’8" and might weigh 130 pounds has the ability to KTFO trained 200+ pound male boxers. I’m sorry but I couldn’t buy that. I’m sure she could decision her way to some wins because the woman obviously has skills, but knockouts? Hell no. Plus in this movie she’s a brawler going toe to toe with dudes twice her size. I once had a friend bet me during the Roy Jones / John Ruiz fight that Jones, a pumped up middleweight, was going to knock out John Ruiz who was a true heavyweight. That was a sucker bet. I figured Jones would win based on his speed and skill but he wasn’t knocking that dude out because he was too damn big and strong, and if Jones messed around and caught just once, the fight would’ve been over. So no, that was a bit unbelievable.
But hey, it’s just a movie and while I didn’t believe in the reality of the situation I did buy into the fantasy of it all. It’s funny because as the movie started it seemed that Ms. Neuenswander wasn’t much of an actress but either she got better as the movie went on or I just adjusted to her particular acting style because by the end of the film her character had won me over. Chad Ortis also did well as he was a scummy promoter and he played that scummy character quite well, almost to the bitter end. Plus both Ortis and Neuenswander had some chemistry together which also helped the movie. And I am really growing weary of typing Neuenswander. I wonder would it be too much to ask the girl to shorten that last name a bit?
Director Jonathan Dillon stages the fight scenes quite well with the final fight scene between Neuenswander and Kurt Hanover being a particularly fine fake fight as it progressed the way I would imagine any fight such as this would go, and Hanover also made for a very good villain in this movie.
There were times the film ran a little slow and hit a dead spot and there were times that the movies budgetary limitation betrayed its artistic intentions, but it wasn’t enough to derail this movie which gets by on a some fine performances, some genuine heart and a little bit of melodrama. They should pump up promotion for this movie by having Rebecca Neuenswander challenge Channing Tatum to a fight. I’d drop some pay-per-view dollars to see that.