Down and nearly out ex-semi pro boxer Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) looks into another empty bottle of spirits and drags himself to his feet, hey he might be down but he’s not out for the count yet. Determined to get back into shape and start a fresh, he packs his dirty old kit and heads off to the boxing gym. Wheezing, straining and sweating off the booze from countless nights, he steps and skips around the hall, shadow punching, ducking and a diving. He’s still got the moves under all that rust and achy bones.
There’s one other person in the gym, a young whippersnapper called Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges) working the speed ball, just there to keep fit. Billy asks if he fancies sparring with him, to knock off the cobwebs. Ernie reluctantly agrees, worrying he’s gonna get a right smashing but Billy sees something special in the kid. He has potential, a long reach and quick on his toes. Impressed, he suggest he goes visit his old trainer Ruben (Nicholas Colasanto) down at Lido’s Gym so he can check him over. It also opens the door for Billy to try reignite his own boxing career and get out of this dump town.
Tagline – A Film About Real Life That Happens To Have Boxing!
The film might be centered around boxing but really it’s about broken dreams, time passing and the realisation that you might be beat and you should really be making the best of what you got. Add to that, poverty, alcoholism, depression and just the fact that the city is smashing you down 24/4/7. You know what dude, it’s all pretty damn depressing stuff but to add to the pain you get stinking Kris Kristofferson singing mega melancholy “Help Me Make It Through the Night” that just makes you wanna get smashed in the face by a barrage of Billy’s big fists.
Seriously though it a superb drama pushed along by fantastic, solid performances, all of which showing the deeper, darker side of life. Veteran, legendary director John Huston manages to get such raw, emotion filled drama and tough pained souls from all the actors. There are some real powerhouse performances none more so than from Stacy Keach and his “girl” Oma (Susan Tyrrell). She gives it absolutely everything as the neurotic, unbalanced alcoholic who constantly shouting and moaning, angry one minute, in tears the next. Her acting must of taken it’s toll on her as she without doubt threw everything at her part!
But wait, come back, it’s not all heavy depressing stuff, well almost not all. The best thing by FAR is the scene time filled with the ever optimistic trainer Ruben and his second in command “water man” Babe (Art Aragon). These two chatting away together on boxing and day to day life are some of the most wonderful scenes in the movie in my honest opinion. They both needed their own sitcom together. A perfect relationship.
Four scenes I loved….
- Trainer Ruben sat up in bed excitedly telling his wife all about his new find, Ernie, and how he’s gonna make it big. As his wife is fast asleep next to him.
- Ruben and Babe’s Lido Gym road trip with the young boxers.
- Seeing the lonely life of a past champion fighter Lucero (real boxer Sixto Rodriguez) as he sits in his hotel room and then leaves the fight alone is heartbreaking but so beautifully done.
- Billy and Ernie sitting looking at the old timers wrinkle filled face working in his coffee shop and realising time is running out, fast.
If you like way too gritty 70’s films filled with realism and a punch bag sized heart full of soul then Fat City could be for you. It’s hits you, jab jab, one two, wham! right in the kisser….. eight nine ten! It’s all over. If you fancy it, tune in to see this straight talking drama or maybe you’ve seen it? What did you think?
Time to throw in the towel. Catch you soon. Mikey Wolf