Review of Fight Film: 'Rigged' aka 'Fight Night'
About Fight Night:
Fight Night aka Rigged is a feature-length film, starring Rebecca Neuenswander and Chad Ortis, that focuses on the world of illegal underground Boxing. The film, which is a low-budget film, was released to the United States back in 2009. As anybody that enjoys martial arts films and/or Boxing films, Fight Night is one of those hidden gems. This is one of the two only known works of film with Rebecca Neuenswander who seemingly has the potential to be the next female martial arts superstar. In the meantime, Neuenswander (a known Tae Kwon Do practitioner) focuses most her time to her nonprofit group called HALO (Helping Art Liberate Orphans) and does a lot of work overseas.
This movie is directed and produced by Johnathan M. Dillon and written by Ian Shorr. Fight Night has won the following awards: The Grand Jury Prize at Dances with Films, Best Feature Film at RADAR Film Festival, Best Cinematography at Action on Film International Film Festival, and Best Female Performance at SoCal Film Festival. So what I have seen, Fight Night has the potential to be shown at many more film festivals. If it wasn't for the artwork for the movie, I probably would've ignored it when I saw it on Netflix. Giving the movie a chance, I was glad. It got me even more curious about Rebecca Neuenswander.
Not watching many Boxing films, I thought Fight Night was well done. It doesn't glorify the world of underground Boxing. In fact, it shows the underground fighting, let alone underground Boxing circuit, is nothing glamorous. Neuenswander's character, Katherine Parker, is shown to be a true underdog and the unlikely type of hero is an illegal underground sport that is dominated completely by men from what the film shows. This is a movie worth watching if you're into films like Fight Club, Million Dollar Baby, or Cinderella Man.
If you're into the Korean or Japanese fight movies, you'll be satisfied with Fight Night as well.
Fight Night aka Rigged is a story about underground Boxing. It starts out with the mysterious Dublin (portrayed by Chad Ortis) coaching his fighter to throw a match; but, make it entertaining first to show that he's probably going to win. However, things don't go as planned as the fighter doesn't listen and refuses to throw the fight. He announces to the audience that Dublin paid him to take a dive. With people wanting his head on a stick, Dublin quickly retreats and escapes. From the very beginning, it is established that Dublin is a hustler who's a crooked fight promoter.
However, Boxing's not the only thing that Dublin rigs. Then, the story takes Dublin to an urbanized area where he rigs a street race. Before he can escape, the people force him to stay. When it's revealed that the race has been rigged, Dublin's life is in danger. With Dublin within an inch of his life, he is rescued by the least likely of people: a skinny female who comes out from the shadows. Without hesitation, the female utilizes bare-knuckle Boxing skills to dispatch Dublin's would-be killers. The woman tells the would-be killers to keep the cash that Dublin would've walked away with. Seeing the woman's skills, Dublin sees his next meal ticket.
Initially, Dublin's first effort fails when he sees her training on a punching bag. But, Dublin doesn't give up. Ultimately, it is a good thing that Dublin doesn't give up. Dublin has found a fighter that people are going to underestimate. Thus, he virtually rig a match but not actually rig a match.
The two of them temporarily go their separate paths. Dublin sees the woman, whose name is Katherine, shoplifting from a grocery store. They eventually come to an agreement as Katherine starts fighting for Dublin. From there, Katherine starts entering the illegal underground Boxing circuit for chump change. Katherine fights in order to make her way to Miami, Florida where a huge underground Boxing event takes place.
I found the pace to be rather appropriate. While the story is plot-driven, Katherine and Dublin do their parts of driving plot. They're not driving in any expensive looking cars, staying at luxury hotels, and so forth. It shows how bottom down the latter Katherine and Dublin are. Going across the southeast United States, making their way towards Miami, Katherine and Dublin participate in fights at various places such as barns, underground bars, underground Boxing clubs, county fairs, etc.
So far, Katherine's proven to be quite the impressive fighter. She shows that Boxing isn't about strength, it's about speed, technique, and finesse. Through the fight circuit, Katherine makes a name for herself as “Kid Vixen.” People keep underestimating Katherine which proves to be their undoing. However, they still believe Dublin is rigging all those fights.
Ultimately, it is revealed that Katherine and Dublin's pasts are somewhat related. Also, Dublin's past as a known hustler comes back to haunt him as well.
Ultimately, Dublin develops a conscious when he learns more about Katherine. At the same time, Katherine has a very big chip on her shoulder that drives her part in the movie. It's a pretty gritty movie that shows the grim reality of illegal fighting. This is an example that good story-telling is crucial to making any movie good.
Dublin and Katherine are the two characters who drive Rigged.
Also one has to look at Clark Richter (portrayed by Kurt Hanover) who is revealed to be the primary antagonist. At first, Dublin and Katherine seem to be one-sided; but, the progresses to show that both characters have several layers to them. These characters have shown that Rigged is not your typical B-movie let alone underground fighting B-movie.
Dublin – Dublin, one of the two main characters, is a shady hustler. Rigged shows that Dublin is by no means a “good guy.” He's pretty much the antihero in the movie. So far, he comes off as being amoral and thinking mainly about making a lot of cash fast. Thus, he sees Katherine has his meal ticket. However, it shows that there's an ulterior motive to Dublin. He's not looking to live a lifestyle of luxury; Dublin's looking to reclaim something that was lost when he was younger. However, the movie doesn't explore how Dublin got mixed up with Richter who seems to be a combination of a boss and mentor. Dublin doesn't fit the typical mold of a hustler let alone a fight hustler.
Katherine – Katherine, aka Kid Vixen, is the unlikely heroine. However, she's not considered a hero either. One could consider Katherine to be part of the neutral alignment. Katherine, through Dublin, enters the underground fight circuit. She comes off as being more mysterious than Dublin. That mystery makes Katherine different from other heroines in martial arts films. Also, there's no romantic interest between Katherine or Dublin which makes the movie more appealing. I felt Neuenswander has done a good job portraying Katherine. As the story progresses, it is revealed that Katherine is either lesbian or bisexual; but, she doesn't fit the stereotype. Also, her past with Richter is revealed.
Katherine reminds me a lot about Spike Spiegel from the anime series Cowboy Bebop. When Spike gets into gunfights, he takes damage. The same applies to Katherine. There are fights in which Katherine shows bruises and cuts as a result of previous fights. While Katherine looks good, she doesn't keep the “pretty face” that's healed up. Because of those bruises showing up, it makes Katherine look realistic and believable.
Rigged aka Fight Night is one of those movies that doesn't fit the mold of your typical fighting B-movies. I felt that Rebecca Neuenswander is an underrated actress that should be cast in more films. With her combat skills and how she portrayed Katherine, Neuenswander has the “it” factor for future fight movies let alone martial arts movies. In the case of Ortis' portrayal of Dublin, he has that “it” factor for various procedural dramas on TV. It's one of those sleeper hits. If you are into fight movies, Rigged aka Fight Night is a movie you should check out. Those with a Netflix subscription should check out this movie.