Fat City (1972) Real Life Can Pack Quite A Punch!

Fat City (1972) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) Oma (Susan Tyrrell) drunk pub

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.

Fat City (1972) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) outside hotel digsFat City (1972) Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges) working the speed ball

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.

Fat City (1972) (Jeff Bridges) Nicholas Colasanto Art Aragon)Fat City (1972) (Jeff Bridges) Nicholas Colasanto Art Aragon ring side

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.

Fat City (1972) lido gym boxing road tripFat City (1972) Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) end scene

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!

Fat City (1972) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) Oma (Susan Tyrrell) out on the townFat City (1972) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) Oma (Susan Tyrrell) playing cards

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.

Fat City (1972) (Jeff Bridges) Nicholas Colasanto Art Aragon fight ready

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.

Fat City (1972) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) Lucero (real boxer Sixto Rodriguez

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


17 thoughts on “Fat City (1972) Real Life Can Pack Quite A Punch!

  1. I have wanted to see this one for ages, but for one reason and another I have yet to get around to it. You make it sound so good. This sounds like it is a real character piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stacey Keach really caught my attention in this film. He played “down and out” Tully with a touch of world weary dignity, treading the sort of ground reserved for Robert Mitchum in several films, an excellent team up with the equally laid back Jeff Bridges. I’m sure I first watched ‘Fat City’ on the BBC’s Moviedrome, but I haven’t seen in it in years. I really must seek out this terribly underrated film again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reading the info from the time, the whole Oscar politics system seemed to be in a right sham that year. What a shame that Stacy Keach was high on the list to be the winner but lobbying and rule changes messed up his chances. He certainly gives it his all. It’s a great film isn’t it, gritty and pretty depressing but stellar performances from all involved. Very pleased to have found it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post 🙂 You know when you really think about it, the boxing elements of the film stand out as window dressing whereas the character drama is what actually takes center stage here. What else can be said about the performances – Stacy Leach, Jeff Bridges and Susan Tyrell are all tops here. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂


  4. I’m happy to see this honest and heartfelt review of Fat City. I saw it in 1972, and it was one of my favorite movies at the time. It still is. I thought Susan Tyrell’s performance was particularly outstanding and memorable. I didn’t realize until today that the “Babe” character (trainer who carried the bucket) was former boxer Art Aragon, who I just saw tonight in a TCM classic from 1952 “The Ring”. I almost didn’t recognize him. He played a fighter in that movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dan, sorry for the very late reply but thank you so much for the comment. Yes Ruben and Babe had the most wonderful relationship in Fat City and added yet another brilliant set of performances to this truly great movie. I didn’t realise either that Art Aragon was a former boxer. Thanks for the info and I will indeed be looking out for “The Ring”. Especially as I spy crazy eyed Jack Elam is also in the cast. Thank you.


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