Fat City (1972) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for language and some sensuality
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Nicholas Colasanto, Candy Clark, Art Aragon
Director: John Huston
Screenplay: Leonard Gardner (based on his novel)
Review published October 14, 2005
The great director John Huston (Prizzi's Honor, The Maltese Falcon) scores again with one of his most understated films, a small-time character study on two boxers on opposite ends of their boxing careers. Keach (Brewster McCloud, Up in Smoke) plays Billy Tully, a former boxer that lost a big match and hasn't been quite the same since, but he's looking to make a comeback. Bridges (King Kong, Cutter's Way) is an up-and-coming fighter looking to make a name for himself, but he too already sees a crossroads in his life, not really certain of what he wants to be or who he really is.
Fat City can't really be judged by typical movie terms, as it doesn't have a tangible plot, merely giving us a slice of life in these two interconnected lives for a brief period. It's a peek into a world we would probably otherwise never get to see, and the experience as a whole greatly benefits from very acute characterizations and situations that defy predictability, thanks in large part to a heavy dose of realism.
The performances are first-rate, with Keach delivering one of the best roles in his career. Susan Tyrrell (Tapeheads, Powder) plays Tully's alcoholic love interest, Oma, in a performance that is funny and tragic all at once; her powerful take earned her an Academy Award nomination. Bridges also offers some nice touches in his subdued portrayal of a young man conflicted without being able to articulate just what troubles him.
Subtle yet rich in so many ways, Fat City is one of the best films to cover the sport of boxing, giving us more of a glimpse into what drives these men to get in the ring and lay everything on the line. Definitely worth a look for those who enjoy the work of Keach and Huston; it resonates in its bleak and pessimistic portrayal of squandered lives and broken dreams.
©2005 Vince Leo