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REVIEW: Catfight

March 10, 2017

Director: Onur Tukel
Screenplay: Onur Tukel
Starring: Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi, Craig Bierko, Dylan Baker
Runtime: 96 Minutes

 

★★★☆☆

 

Catfight is the extrapolated presentation of what happens when words fail and give way to physical acts of instinct. Two former school friends Veronica (Sandra Oh) and Ashley (Anne Heche) cross paths one night, and after exchanging a few antagonistic words of old scores left unsettled, suddenly decide that it’s better to let their fists do the real talking in an agitated battle for supremacy.

 

The film depicts a steadily escalating succession of violent brawls which leave both performers as bloodied and ripped to shreds as their lives in the fallout of these vicious conflicts. Director Onur Tukel’s camera lingers on the nasty, psychical brutality during these prolonged matches, with a sound design and desperate choreography that make them all the more comedic to view. Both Oh and Heche and bafflingly good in their uncharitable roles, with a prominent supporting role from a better than usual Alicia Silvertone as Heche’s onscreen partner.

 

There’s a sadistic thrill in seeing these two genuinely awful, self-centred people of hither and yon fortune beat seven bells of crap out of each other. The film relishes these moments with appalling glee as classical orchestration dramatically scores the set pieces like a performance in itself (one of which is hilariously punctuated with clear observational intent), encouraging the audience to cheer on the competition like a roadside attraction.

 

On the other side, it’s an incredibly narcissistic picture that finds its bleak entertainment in depicting the broken characters as grudge only digs deeper and rots away the foundations of their former lives in the intermittent years between clashes, and as such it really isn’t something to recommend to those who would rather avoid the nature of physical conflict, or the general mean-spiritedness of the characters treatments of one another across the entire cast.

 

There are incredibly broad stabs at satirical commentary on social hierarchy, paternal instincts and western colonialism/appropriation – the violence serves to portray the larger political rumblings both on and off screen as little more than the petty skirmishes that only escalate when they’re allowed to fester. But not all of it really lands, in particular, a recurring sardonic parody of American talk shows that’s never quite as funny as often as it is repeated with oddly toned flatulent comedy.

 

Besides its repetitious structure (though intentionally so), it’s an absurd and admittedly fun piece of work with two fantastic central performances.

 

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