Actors: James Caan, Dominic Purcell, Louis Gossett Jr., Freddie Roach, Famke Janssen
Director: Damian Lee
Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Subtitled, NTSC
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: June 17, 2014
Run Time: 88 minutes
Director: Damian Lee
This is clearly the most personal film to come from Canadian director Damian Lee, and despite a few stumbles along the way, A Fighting Man is still standing on two feet when that final bell rings. Lee doesn’t reinvent the boxer film, nor does he seem to be trying to, but instead he has a simple idea executed with previously unseen levels of precision. Whether Lee’s ability to capture the energy of boxing comes from his own past experiences as a professional fighter or simply a sign of his development as a filmmaker, A Fighting Man is an impressive little addition to the genre.
Cleverly written in a way that allows little narrative excess, A Fighting Man takes place entirely over the course of one fight. This is only made possible through flashbacks, which Lee uses as a way to slowly reveal character motivation. By the end of the fight, we understand the emotional beating that life has thrown at these two men, providing a relevant parallel to their career of choice. This also allows the narrative to become something more than your typical sports film. While it contains many of the typical inspirational plot points of an underdog narrative, the addition of the flashbacks also make the film something of a character-driven mystery.
The fight is between a washed-up veteran boxer named Sailor O’Connor (Dominic Purcell) and a young rising star named King (Izaak Smith). Like many of the recent aging boxer underdog films, the fight is set up as more of an exhibition to display King’s abilities. Sailor has never been knocked down in a fight, and King’s promoter (Louis Gossett Jr.) sees it as a good publicity stunt. What they are unable to predict is the determination of Sailor, who has his own motivation for being in the ring. Along with a sudden need for the money, Sailor also has a tragedy in his past involving a mysterious woman (Famke Janssen). The film also co-stars Freddie Roach (“Sons of Anarchy”) as a sympathetic priest and friend to Sailor, and Michael Ironside and James Caan as the support team in his corner.
The DVD is missing any special features, but Lee talks about the making of A Fighting Man in my exclusive interview with him for the release of Breakout.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10