Fight Night

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“You’ve got the balls, you’ve got the skills, and unlike most female boxers, you don’t look like an ugly man-hater.”

Michael Dublin (Ortis) is a wheeler-dealer, swinging between fixing underground fights and selling dodgy auto parts as need and opportunity arises. When the latter goes wrong, causing the car to explode rather than go faster, he is rescued from a beating by Katherine Parker (Neuenswander), a girl who easily disposes of the attackers, giving Dublin an idea. Instead of rigging the bets by getting good fighters to take a dive, what about winning with someone like Kat, who can win straight-up, but on whom no sane gambler would ever wager? Initially, things go as planned, despite her qualms about being labelled “Kid Vixen”. But Dublin’s reputation precedes him, and he is requested by Richter (Hanover), who runs the underground ring, for his fighter to lose a bout. Ok, “requested” might be the wrong word there. However, Kat is having none of it, leaving her manager with a very difficult choice to make, and choices have consequences.

The problem is the script, which doesn’t so much avoid the usual boxing cliches as play join-the-dots with them. Both Dublin and Parker have murky pasts and honest ambitions. There’s a steady climb up through opponents until the “boss-level” one against Richter at the end. He beat Kat to a pulp early in her career, yet still resorts to any manner of nefarious schemes to make sure he wins – even threatening Dublin’s life should Kat not go down. And the ending poses a greater danger to the audience’s teeth than anything. That said, I’ve seen worse. Much worse. Here, the other elements of the movie definitely help paper over the cracks in the story, though you need some suspension of disbelief that Parker inevitably KO’s opponents twice her size.

Not beat them, however, since Neuschwander is quick and powerful, her background in taekwondo (where she was a world sparring champion in 2000) clearly apparent, lending the fight scenes a legitimacy perhaps missing from, say, Million Dollar Baby. Acting-wise, she’s surprisingly impressive, given this appears to have been her film debut; she and Ortis have an interestingly-spiky relationship, with their verbal sparring almost as intense as the in-ring bouts. [Credit to the make-up artist, incidentally, for a vivid depiction of the damage Kat takes, which is so nasty as occasionally to be distracting] All told, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, the performances and direction giving this one a victory on points.

Dir: Jonathan Dillon
Star: Chad Ortis, Rebecca Neuenswander, Kurt Hanover, John Wilson
a.k.a. Rigged

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