Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Quick and Dirties: Fightin' Femmes


For Day 6 of Girl Week 2017, the Quick and Dirties are back!!! This is when I review a number of movies in short order. Today's edition is all about ladies who aren't afraid to lay a beat-down on you. In fact, that's their job. No secret agents, cops, or people trying to rescue kidnap victims. These ladies are just fighters. They're also impatient, so I'll just get right to it.

Catfight
(2016)
Veronica (Sandra Oh) and Ashley (Anne Heche) were friends back in their college days before having a falling out, but have lost touch with each other. Veronica has become a wealthy housewife with a disintegrating marriage thanks to her affinity for wine. She comes across Ashley who is a struggling artist and serving drinks at a party Veronica attends. Their old beef flares up and before you know it the two are brawling in the staircase. It sounds simple. It sounds thin. It sounds like a waste, but it is anything but. The movie is surprisingly complex, in a good way, and steeped in wonderfully executed and sharp social satire. I wasn't sure what to expect when I pressed play on this one, but what I got was a fantastic dark comedy that is as smart as it appears dumb. Sandra Oh and Anne Heche are both excellent and pull off the bloody fisticuffs in glorious fashion. The film is built around three fights between them and it does not skimp on the brutality. This adds to the dark, absurdist vibe the film has going on. The only drawback I really found is that a lot of what the movie is saying might go over the head of people only focused on the fighting. 


Lady Bloodfight
(2016)
Shu (Muriel Hoffman) and Wai (Kathy Wu) fight to a draw in the finals of a brutal, underground, anything goes, underground, annual martial arts tournament for women only. Rather than split the prize money, the two agree to each train one person to fight on their behalf in next year's tourney. Of course, this tournament is called The Kumite. Fast-forward nine months. Wai, who dresses in black to help us out, meets a thieving ball of attitude named Ling (Jenny Wu). Shu, who dresses in white, again, just in case we weren't sure of her virtue, meets a vengeful ball of attitude from America named Jane (Amy Johnston) who doubles as our protagonist because, of course she does. And away we go. It's a fun movie with lots of bone-crunching action scenes. Occasionally, it bogs itself down with far too many subplots and it doesn't make proper use of its scariest villain, only known as The Russian (Mayling Ng, not really Russian, I'm guessing). The script sucks. So, too, does all of the acting except possibly Hoffman and Kathy Wu as our two mentors. The writing is terrible. Still, the action is pretty fantastic so I had a good time watching it. Imagine I gave you about half a dozen Asian lingerie models, three or four female bodybuilders of varying ethnicities, one cute, but tough blonde-haired, blue-eyed American girl and said you had to use this cast to remake Bloodsport (ah...Kumite). There's a good chance you'd come up with something pretty close to this movie. 


GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
(2012)
In the mid 1980s, I was still a wrestling fan, but my interest was waning. The only reason I didn't completely give up on it was the emergence of the GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It was all-female, campy, and ridiculous, but endlessly entertaining. This documentary chronicles the rise and fall of the show as well as catches up with many of the participants. The interviews with them are fun, lively, and provide insight into the conditions under which they worked. We also get to hear how the show was handled by the powers that be, and just how fleeting success can be. In this case, it's quite literally snatched from the girls by people who, no surprise, declined to be interviewed for this documentary. It's a great trip down memory lane for me, a cool look into a forgotten phenomenon for youngsters, and in the end, touching and bittersweet.


Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters
(1982)
Renny (Eva Arnaz) is a Judo champion, but that's falling far short of paying her sick brother's medical bills. Looking for anything to make money, she gets roped into some crime syndicate who, after trying to make her a prostitute, threaten to kill her brother and their mother if she doesn't fight for them in underground tournaments. I went in expecting a fun, campy, exploitation flick. What I got was way too much exposition (poorly written, at that) far too many storylines. The movie explains things that were about to happen AND explained them after they happened. Sigh. This movie also has some of the worst fight choreography in the history of film. In the ring, our ladies spend most of the time holding each other's shoulders and grunting. And it's loudly recorded. I had to turn it down because it sounded like porn more than fighting. There was plenty of action outside the ring, too. It was quite a bit better, but was still horrible. We often got the familiar sound effect of punches and kicks landing when they clearly missed by at least a foot. Okay, that part was unintentionally hilarious. The rest of it was boring and confusing.


Bonus Review:

I'll call this a bonus because I don't review TV shows. However, it's appropriate given the topic and how it relates to one of the movies above.


GLOW
(Season 1, 2017)
This series is a highly fictionalized version of the events that led to GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling becoming a television sensation. It mostly revolves around Ruth (Alison Brie), a struggling actress with a life even messier than her career. When the opportunity to be on the wrestling show comes her way, she grabs that bull by the horns and refuses to let go. She is overbearing, but well-meaning, mostly. When I say mostly I'm specifically referring to the fact she also slept with her best friend's husband, a relevant topic to the entire season. That best friend is former soap opera star Debbie (Betty Gilpin) who also finds herself part of the show's cast.The other major storyline of this first season involves the trials and tribulations of getting the show on TV in the first place. The characters are all inspired by the actual GLOW wrestlers, but fictional, nonetheless. Over the course of the season, they all get some time in the spotlight. Also getting their share are the only two guys of consequence, director Sam (Marc Macon) and producer Sebastian (Chris Lowell). Brie and Macon are the standouts among the cast, along with Gilpin, Sydelle Noel as Cherry and Gayle Rankin as Sheila "the She-Wolf." The real stars are the writers who provide enough humor and twists to keep us interested throughout.


12 comments:

  1. Sign me up for Catfight immediately. That sounds too ridiculous to miss.

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    1. It's streaming on Netflix and it fits into your desired timeframe at a shade over 90 minutes.

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  2. You stumped me Dell! I've seen none of these but I love the title Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters. I think that picture tells me all I need to know about it though.

    For some reason these all put me in mind of Kansas City Bomber with Raquel Welch which deals with roller derby not wrestling, karate or the like but those girls delivered a beat down for sure.

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    1. Yeah, don't see FFFF. Of this bunch, the first is the most accomplished and worth your time, unless you have fond memories of the show GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling from the 80s.

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  3. I'm not a fan of Anne Heche unless she's actually playing a character that is a joy to watch. Yet, I do want to see Catfight just for the violence. I like to watch ladies fight. Especially if they get actually throw fists and shit.

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    1. Oh, they definitely throw fists. In fact, their fights mostly consist of the two of them throwing haymakers at one another.

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  4. I've never heard of any of these movies, but it's a delightfully bad-ass and campy theme. Your description of Catfight intrigues me, because 1. You said the movie actually has something to say. and 2. You said it's under 90 minutes, which is just the right length for a ridiculous movie.

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    1. Catfight is definitely the cream of this crop. Just so we're on the same page, I said it's a little over 90 minutes. Don't worry, it's not much over.

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    2. Oh, right. I misread that. Maybe I'll check it out.

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    3. Hope so. It's much more interesting than the title makes it seem.

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