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FAT CITY

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrell, Candy Clark
Director: John Huston
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen & 1.33:1 Standard Full Screen
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: December 10, 2002

“You can count on me, right down the line!”

Film **

Fat City is a skewed look at the classic human condition and how even when the odds are stacked against us, we’ll keep pushing those boundaries until something somewhere gives.   

Stacy Keach (CBS’s Mike Hammer) plays ex-boxer Billy Tellen in this John Huston film.   It seems that Billy was once a pretty descent boxer with a chance to make a name for himself…that is, until a bad woman and a barstool sent his career to the bottom of the bottle!  A hung over Billy meets up with a young guy named Ernie at the local YMCA and has a quick sparring session with him.   The kid is good, so Billy sends him down to his old manager to see if he truly has the gift.  

Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges worked really well together in this film.   The individual acting style that each person brought with him, along with the directing talent of John Huston, set the stage for some mid-level exploration into why we do or don’t do certain things to help ourselves move forward in this life. 

The character of Oma played by Susan Tyrrell (Powder, Cry Baby) made me long for the nice young men in the clean white coats to come and take her away.  Her over the top drunken fits of anger, jealousy, and rage did lend a bit of humor to some of the more serious scenes, but her character didn’t really add anything to the story that benefited it in any way that I could see.  Her acting abilities are far from questionable, as she is a fine actress with a lot of depth, but the role she plays in Fat City was a bit too over the top for me.  

Jeff Bridges did an outstanding job playing the young, energetic Ernie.  He is really young in this movie, but it’s clear his character’s innocence and openness gave him a great pallet to build on.   I mean, we all wish we could get back to the way we were when were 18 or 19, but Jeff does a wonderful job making you believe in Ernie and his willingness to work hard and do the right thing, no matter what. 

John Huston’s marvelous directing abilities really shine through in this movie.  The blocking of some scenes with the characters set off to the side, and almost out of the shot really impressed upon me the cold and lonely nature of these peoples’ existence.   It is sheer will and determination, that motivates each of them to get up every day, and deal with the cards life has dealt for them.  Huston sets up each shot so that it paints a picture for the audience that shows the internal as well as external forces at work against each character.

I wouldn’t put this movie in league with, say, a Rocky flick, but it definitely could go at least one round with the big lug.   Give it a try, and if nothing else you’ll learn a few lessons about human nature and how we all get lead down the wrong path a time or two in our lives.  

Video **

I wasn’t too impressed with the video quality on this release.   The movie itself came out in 1971 and with the attention to detail that is being paid to releases a lot older than this one, it’s upsetting to see the dirt and grain easily visible in every scene.   The colors indoors and outdoor were very dull.   The tones and shading were flat with no texture to add that extra boost of realism that older darker movies need.

The menus and movie trailers were nice looking especially the trailer for XXX.   Overall though, this movie really could have benefited from a face lift. 

Audio ***

The audio on this DVD had a really rich and full sound.  The Dolby Digital Stereo mix was nicely blended and really helped add to the naturalistic feel of the movie.    Kris Kristofferson’s brooding sound in the opening song really helped to set the tone of the movie.  This is one instance where the audio really did help carry the movie along.  

Features *

When it comes to features this DVD barely makes it through the first round before it gets KO’d!  

A movie trailer for The Greatest the real story behind Muhammad Ali is included for your viewing pleasure along with a quick peek at the Marlon Brando movie On The Waterfront.   Flash forward a few decades and you get a good look at Vin Diesel in the promotional trailer for his latest blow um up action flick XXX..  

The interactive menus weren’t so interactive, and the choice of widescreen or full screen was about the most exciting part for me.   

Summary:

This movie has a lot of character, a lot of spirit, and some really cool boxing scenes in it.   If you feel like going a few rounds but don’t want to put the gloves on yourself, pop in this disc and let your DVD player show you the action blow by blow.