MPI // 2011 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 26th, 2012
We build better men.
From the minds behind Gunner Palace, a look at the brutal high-stakes world of mixed martial arts. Directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker take their cameras to Louisiana, to capture the day-to-day training and dream-building that's happening in a small MMA training school. Two young fighters end up in the spotlight: Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier and Albert Stainback. Granted "Stainback" isn't the toughest sounding surname, but it's a whole lot better than Dustin "Diamond." Regardless, either of these dudes would cave in my chest before I had a chance to scream "I have a family!"
Fightville tracks these two men, as they train at the gym and march up the ranks through a series of small home MMA shows. Along the way, we get soul-baring interviews from both fighters, the show organizers, friends and family, and the school's hardass MMA teachers. Real fights are inserted throughout and, though primarily filmed with a static camera through the ring's cage, they're thrilling.
Actually, this whole movie is thrilling, a genuinely exciting deep dive into what is one of the biggest sports crazes in the last decade. I admit, my perception of MMA is iffy. Between what feels like match after match of dudes on the ground grappling with each other and the steady march of terrible Tapout films, I wasn't high on the sport.
Two movies have such softened that stance: 2012's best film of the year, Warrior, and now this. The former was the healing salve needed to wipe away the bad taste of relentless MMA straight-to-DVD dreck, utilizing MMA in a legitimately exciting way. But it's Fightville that brought me an appreciation for the sport and the men who fight in it.
It's not just brawling. There is immense skill and training involved in these bouts. The participants get into the ring -- and risk some decent facial re-arrangement -- because they're driven to do so. They might be starting from different emotional points (Albert is pretty clear about why he fights angry, and his reasons are sourced in his terrible upbringing), but when the bell rings and it's one dangerous dude versus another, there is a simple truth: Survival of the fittest.
The result is a fascinating look behind-the-scenes. Fightville is illuminating and exciting, partly because the directors do a great job investing us in their characters and partly because of the nature of the sport. My only complaint: once in a while, the tone gets pretentious, which is surprising since we're primarily dealing with primal aggression.
Still an awesome ending and a few simple words more than compensate for sporadic wanderings into overwrought dialogue: We build better men. Excellent.
MPI's Blu-ray is up to the task, delivering a rock-solid 1.78:1/1080p high def transfer that transmits the blood and sweat with majesty. A lossless 2.0 PCM audio mix is clean and hits with impact during the fight sequences. Extras: deleted scenes, and an eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.
Great stuff! Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes