THE FIGHT MACHINE, directed by Andrew T. Hund, is a bad-ass film in the style of FIGHT CLUB but without the dual personality disorder. It’s a film that follows two young men that feel the weight of their parents’ expectation of their future. They rebel in their own way against their parents. Their journey leads them to a final confrontation in an underground bare knuckles fighting barn. Their story before their final confrontation is amazing with some great drama being based on the novel THE FIGHTER from Craig Davidson.
The film follows the lives of Paul Harris (Greg Hovanessia) and Rob Tully (Dempsey Bryk). Paul has lived a life of privilege. His father is the owner of a famous winery. He is expected to live a fancy life and inherit the family business. One night while partying, he gets beat up in a scuffle. The fight is life changing for Paul. For the first time in his life he feels vulnerable and scared. He makes the decision to improve his fighting skills. He starts to go to the gym, takes steroids and enrolls in boxing classes. You might think this sounds like he is on a journey of self-improvement, It’s more like he is embarking on a journey of self-destruction, where he is destroying his old self and creating a new person. You have no idea the punishment these kids take in this movie. His Boxing trainer Lou (Michael Ironside) inspires him to become an underground fighter. The more he fights and his face turns into ground beef, he discovers his love of fighting. Paul also discovers talent is that he can take a beating like nobody else and still keep going. His story reminds me of my favorite Martial arts film THE PRODIGAL SON.
Rob is a smart kid that is also a natural born fighter. He has all the skill to become a great fighter; but he hates fighting. He is being trained by his father Reuben (Greg Bryk) and his uncle Tommy (Noah Danby). They recognized his talent and are training him to become a professional boxer, so that he gets the opportunity to leave their small town. A chance they didn’t get. Rob is feeling the pressure of training for a life he doesn’t want. He doesn’t want to be their vessel to fulfill a dream they never achieved. In the fight scenes you can see that indeed he is a great fighter; but his enthusiasm shows he rather be doing something else.
THE FIGHT MACHINE is a brutal film and the filmmakers do not glamorize the fights in this movie. The encounters are violent and ugly, and they do a great job in presenting how painful it is getting hit as you hear the crunch of bones and feeling the concussion. The aftermath of the fights are even more brutal, where fighters have to deal with broken noses, loose teeth, and lacerated flesh. The technique to fix them is so painful that the fighters can even vomit from the pain.
In addition, the two leads are amazing in their perspective story. The expectation of them finally colliding in a final fight is great. I do wish we would have gotten a montage of the two leads getting ready for their final fight as I felt they needed one final training montage. I was the most enamored by the story of the rich kid trying to become a fighter. Ironside as always brings his A-game as the grizzled old mentor and gives the best speech about old school fighting. Their are also trippy scenes after a character has consumed a large amount of drugs that would be at home in a Terry Gilliam film.