27/12/2017

Fighting - Where Is The Music?

Thoughts On: Fighting (2009)

A street hustler meets an unlicensed fight manager/producer.


Fighting isn't a bad movie. It follows the usual street fighting/boxing movie plot whilst incorporating much-seen tropes of redemption, brotherhood and romance into itself, and this makes for a strong, albeit slightly unoriginal, story. In support of the story is some really nice cinematography, solid performances and some gleaming moments of writing/world building. In such, there are parts of this movie that really pull you into the streets of New York - without throwing at you the same old shots of the cityscape, Times Square, bustling crowds, grimy subways and yellow taxis - as well as the lives of our main characters. This is quite refreshing and makes for as film worth watching. However, there is a reason why this came and went without garnering much attention or acclaim.

The manner in which the editing, sound and direction of this movie interact is quite bad. There is then a constant sense of discord as you watch Fighting as there is no pop in the dialogue and no emphasis of the important beats of a scene. This all comes down to the framing, the blocking and the montage composition: they show no understanding of rhythm and subtext. As a result, most scenes mumble by or stagger across the screen - so much so that I thought this was harshly re-cut to trim down the run time. However, whilst there is a longer version of this movie, it is 108 minutes long whilst the original theatrical cut is 105 minutes long. Those extra 3 minutes do not imply that the awkward editing in this movie was inflicted upon it by a studio, rather that the shots weren't planned and, in terms of sound design especially, executed to a high enough level.

The crux of the problems with Fighting are then that it doesn't understand basic theories of editing very well - or at least it shows a very poor understanding of them. To explain this a little better, I'll leave you with a master of filmmaking and a few of his words that many of you would have heard before:


As Hitchcock picks up on, montage is a musical phenomena orchestrated with shot types (medium close-ups, wides, bird's-eye-view, etc.) and juxtaposition. In other words, certain images placed together in a certain way create a symphony of motion and imagery that impacts the audience as a filmmaker desires; we feel the violence of a scene, its melancholic weight, its wrought tension, etc. Throughout Fighting, there is very little music and there is no harmony created through editing and direction.

This is most evident in the actual fighting scenes. In terms of both storytelling and technical filmmaking, there are some things missing in this movie that leave many notes out. Starting with story, it may surprise you to know that, whilst this is a movie that claims to be all about fighting, there are no training sequences. Channing Tatum does about 5 push-ups before his final fight - that's about it. There are no Rocky sequences in which he goes running, where he hits some meat or does some some pull ups. And whilst there is a backstory concerning wrestling in college, who knows how many years it has been since our main character has trained. And who knows if he's ever trained in boxing, kick boxing, muay thai or jujutsu. After all, we do see mixed martial arts - kicks, take downs, ground and pound, some sketchy rear naked chokes and so on - throughout this movie. For the fact that there is this huge plot hole that is supposed to be filled singularly by the physique of Tatum, when we enter the fight scenes of this movie there is an inner-discord: the content of these scene does not produce music.

Taking a step back and looking at how these scenes are shot, I am quite astonished at the confidence that is implied with the rather terrible title, Fighting. Whilst some of the action seems legitimate, the camera movement and editing almost always completely mask what it going on. The shaking handheld camera used throughout action sequences then does nobody any favours - the editor least of all. There is then ultimately no formal music created in the assemblage of the fight scenes in this movie; we don't feel the pace of the fights, the inner emotions of characters or even the chaos/skill that we're supposed to be impressionistically struck by.

To bring things towards a close, whilst Fighting was a good watch, this movie largely serves as a lesson in what weak editing looks like. There is a harmony in the story, but there isn't much music supporting elsewhere. So, if this interests you, it is worth a go, but don't expect fireworks.

Thanks, Aimee






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