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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Paul Leyden
scr Joseph Downey
prd Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Anne Clements, Malin Akerman
with Malin Akerman, Bella Thorne, Dulce Sloan, Alec Baldwin, Fortune Feimster, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Nash, Alec Mapa, Vitoria Setta, Dominique Jackson, Alexia Barlier, Nicol Paone
release US 13.Nov.20
Is it streaming?
Taking an offbeat approach to the idea of female empowerment, this comedy is engaging if a bit unambitious. Written and directed by men, the film dwells on girl-on-girl violence, plus the usual range of trite plot threads, including an unnecessary romance. But there's something interesting going on under the surface, as the script challenges gender roles, letting the cast have a bit of fun with the characters and situations.
At a low point, Anna (Akerman) is struggling to keep her cafe in business, while her sassy best pal Charleen (Sloan), taunts her about being single. Even her dad (Nash) has a new boyfriend (Mapa). To cheer her up, Charleen introduces her to an underground female fight club run by Bear (Feimster). And she's shocked to learn that her late mother founded it. So Anna decides to go all in, and Charleen introduces her to drunken has-been trainer Jack (Baldwin) with only two months to get ready to face the ruthless champ Olivia (Thorne).
It's fine for men to punch each other to relieve tension, so the film's thesis is that women need an outlet too. Meanwhile, the plot has the usual gimmicks including training montages and a requisite quirky fight practice, this time involving a watermelon. It's refreshing that while training gives Anna confidence, it doesn't help with her pile-up of problems (leave those to a simplistic script). And each predictable subplot features a few entertaining throwaway details.
The likeable Akerman maintains Anna's reluctance to cage fighting, even as she knows she has nothing else going on. It's a relaxed performance with just a hint of underlying exasperation about it, which makes her easy to identify with. Baldwin takes an enjoyably ramshackle approach to the usual grizzled coach role, which isn't terribly demanding. Feimster has even less to do, but has some fun with it. Thorne is little more than the aggressive mean girl in this scenario, with almost no other textures. Thankfully, Sloan relishes the scene-chewing comical role, and is a lot of fun whenever she's on screen.
There's nothing remotely challenging going on in this movie, but the loose storytelling style gives it a scruffy charm. While the buildup to the big battle provides some generic momentum, the side relationships are much more amusing, including Anna's budding flirtation with a doctor (Connolly) and some easy-pickings jokes involving her dad's new gay life. ANd the ultimate message that the power to fix your life comes from within is always welcome.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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