Two men, working as professional boxers, come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum.
When it comes to boxing movies, most people think of 'Raging Bull', 'Rocky', 'Million Dollar Baby', 'Ali', and even 'The Great White Hype' when put on the spot. Secondly, when film director John Huston's name comes up, most people quickly bring up 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre', 'Key Largo', 'The African Queen', and more importantly 'The Maltese Falcon'. With all of those names and references, it is little known that John Huston did indeed direct a boxing movie late in his career, specifically in 1972 that starred a very young Jeff Bridges and young Stacey Keach.
In the 1960s, Huston wasn't as successful as he was in previous years and most people in Hollywood and fans alike, thought the aging director had lost his edge, but that all came to a halt with 'Fat City' in 1972, which showed every film fan that Huston did indeed have some steam left in him and garnered a bunch of awards for the cast and crew. Leave it to Huston to make something so deep rooted and beautiful as 'Fat City', which follows a pair of boxers in the seedy underbelly of California, something that Sylvester Stallone wouldn't do for another four years with 'Rocky'.
What makes 'Fat City' so interesting to watch nowadays is that it doesn't follow the same underdog formula as so many boxing and other sports movies do. Make no mistake about it too, this is no feel good movie by any means, but rather a very true and simple tale of two men trying to fight their personal demons and be the best boxer they can be. It doesn't always work out though. The film is based on Leonard Gardner's novel from 1969, which he also wrote the screenplay for and centers on two low-life, run-down boxers, trying to make their way to the top.
These two boxers are Billy Tully (Keach) and Ernie Munger (Bridges) with Billy being the older boxer who has addiction problems and many other vices to name. Ernie is a young up-an-coming boxer who Billy thinks has the guts and glory to go all the way to the top. Billy hooks up Ernie with a former manager and he starts to train, which ignites a fire under Billy who starts to train to fight as well. There are several subplots between these two fighter's personal relationships with other women and their substance abuse problems, but the main focus is Billy and Ernie struggling to make ends meet in their low-level boxing promotion and all of the sadness and depression that comes with not getting paid and getting seriously injured.
'Fat City' is indeed a gloomy movie, although there are some genuine comedic moments as well, with some dark humor sprinkled here and there. Keach and Bridges deliver the goods with their performances for sure, as we believe just how difficult it is for them to keep fighting and make money. Again, this is not an underdog story like 'Rocky', but in fact a character study of two people who are forced to interact in their worst state. I would say this is one of Huston's better films that has been overlooked throughout the years.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Fat City' comes from Twilight Time and is limited to 3,000 units on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc, housed in a clear case with a reversible insert and a sic page fully illustrated booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.
'Fat City' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This Twilight Time release is from a new 4K scan and has this 1976 film looking the best it ever has. This gritty film has a good layer of grain, which in some moments is heavier at times, but the image never looks like it has been thru the digital car-wash. Closeups reveal vivid detail that show individual hairs, beads of sweat, and makeup blemishes.
The makeup effects during the boxing scenes look a bit unrealistic here, because of the high-end detail, meaning you can definitely tell it's a makeup job, similar to how 'Rocky' looked in the main event. Other than that, the textures in the costumes looks good and wider shots are also impressive. Colors never really pop off screen, as it has a rusty looking color scheme throughout.
That being said, each color is well-balanced and saturated. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. There were zero instances of any major compression issues as well, leaving this video presentation from Twilight Time with top marks.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix as well as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix to give the purists the original theatrical feeling. The 5.1 option certainly has a more immersive sound with the roars from the crowd and the fighting sound effects coming through the surrounds here and there, but it never packs that powerful punch that a modern action movie may have. Ambient noises and sound effects are very good and layered with some good directionality.
The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow as well, and free of any pops, crack, and hiss. The score and music always adds to each scene and never drowns out any of the sound effects or dialogue. The 2.0 option also sounds very good, but is just not as immersive as the 5.1 track. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is very wide, leaving this audio presentation with solid marks.
Audio Commentary - Screenwriter/film historian Lem Dobbs discusses with Twilight Time's Nick Redman the story and production of 'Fat City' as well as the life of John Huston. This is an interesting commentary and worth listening to.
Isolated Score Track - You can listen to the music only version of the film in DTS-HD 5.1.
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Booklet - Six page fully illustrated booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.
'Fat City' is a boxing movie directed by John Huston that I bet you didn't know about. It's a fantastic film that doesn't play to the underdog sports genre, but rather a bitter and sad character study on two low-level fighters trying to maker their way to a championship, while struggling to live good lives. With excellent performances by everyone involved and great direction by Huston himself, 'Fat City' is not to be missed. The video and audio presentations are both decent and the commentary track is definitely worth listening to. Highly recommended!