|Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions|
|The KO Picture Show|
|Presents. . .|
|The Punch (2002)
"Three Words: TOPLESS FEMALE BOXING!"
The movie that broke my spirit.
My plan was to review this movie for "Fistic Female Month" back in July. I had planned to write it up earlier in the female boxing-themed line-up, but after my initial viewing, the prospect of penning a review for it weighed heavily on my mind. Not only was the exploitative subject matter a severe departure from the fantastic and respectable efforts put forth by the stars of the month's marathon (Lucia Rijker of Shadow Boxers (1997), Michelle Rodriguez of Girlfight (2000), and Hilary Swank of Million Dollar Baby (2004)), but the entire production had something much greater hanging over its head. Something deep. Something dark.
Something irrepressibly icky.
And while I try to be as objective a reviewer as possible, it was just not possible during this movie. I know it seems strange, but a film that features "Topless Female Boxing" had far more disturbing elements to it. I apologize in advance if this review contains a great deal of digression in it, but it's the only way I can explain how this thing affected me.
Ariel (Sonja Bennett) is an 18-year old with some serious issues. Ever since an extremely traumatic childhood incident, Ariel has become very violent and emotionally stunted, so much so that she has to be home-schooled and has almost no friends. The most important person in her life is her father, Sam (Riley), a doctor who has lived with the sorrow of losing his wife and has, inadvertently, fed his daughter's destructive behavior. Mainly by being a total sadsack loser. But also, Sam seems completely oblivious to his daughter's total fixation on him. It all comes to a head when Sam brings home a date for the first time in a LONG time. Things start out as just merely uncomfortable between Ariel and Dad's date, Mary (Marcia Laskowski). But things quickly move from Ariel just being rude throughout dinner until the end of evening when Ariel punches Mary in the face for some perceived slight.
The tone for this first half hour is definitely tense. Sonja Bennett plays Ariel as a very confused yet emotionally explosive young woman. Some scenes she comes off as just a brat, while at other times she seems legitimately vulnerable. But running beneath all of this seems to be a VERY misplaced ATTRACTION to her father. A scene where she implores her doctor father to give her an impromptu breast exam definitely gave me the jibblies. I'd like to think this was intentional. If this were a different movie, I'd give the performance and the direction more credit, but, as I said, this production had something much larger hovering just above it. Something wrong. Something off.
Something inconceivably barfy.
Anyway, by a very long-odds coincidence, Dad's date Mary happens to have a sister who makes her living as a Topless Female Boxer. Give yourself a moment to soak that in. Mary's sister, Julie (Meredith McGeachie), is the best Topless Female Boxer on the Canadian bar circuit apparently, a title she relishes and takes surprisingly serious. Now, being that this is the type of movie that it is, coupled with the fact that it's most likely being viewed at 2 AM on Cinemax, we naturally get some Topless Female Boxing footage. And herein lies a thematic problem. The fact that the female boxing is TOPLESS would hint towards some level of titillation. The 'bouts' are being held in a bar in front of a pretty large, very loud, and mostly male audience. But the spell is broken by 2 factors. 1) Not to be picky, but the ladies in the ring are of the variety that I, and many others I believe, would prefer NOT to see topless. Including our champion, Julie. While I'm sure they're all lovely women with fantastic personalities... let me be frank... I'm talking about ugly boobs. I mean, come on! It's Topless Female Boxing! If the crowd's there for the boxing skill, I'd be very surprised. This is compounded by the fact that Julie takes her 'career' deadly serious. It's not about the toplessness for her. It's all about the glory and sportswomanship, apparently. But when it comes to family, she is far more volatile. She stops by to see her sister Mary at work, and when she notices the shiner her sis is sporting, she demands revenge. Mary just wants to drop it, but Julie pushes the issue and eventually finds out who socked her sister and confronts Ariel and Sam.
The appearance of Julie signals the beginning of the end for this one. The movie wants to present itself as a straight-up drama, but it's hard to take the proceedings seriously when one of the main characters spends most of her screen time wearing boxing gloves and trunks and nothing else. Sam finally decides to stop coddling his daughter, and Ariel begins to spin out of control. The time before the inevitable showdown between Julie and Ariel is filled with a lot of 'emotional' outbursts by everyone, and some teary-eyed exposition from Sam. It's a ridiculous amount of melodrama for a Topless Female Boxing movie. I'd just dismiss the movie as silly, misguided, and trite, but, as I've mentioned... there's something else.
You see, the taboo subject of incest is hinted at. Ariel's misguided affection for her father is one of the few subtle aspects of this film. It made me uncomfortable, as any movie dealing with this subject matter might. But while Ariel's confused feelings for her dad are unnerving in cinematic reality, what's infinitely more horrifying is the fact that Sonja Bennett's full-frontal nudity is being lovingly lensed by her Dad, Guy Bennett.
DADDY'S BEHIND THE CAMERA! DADDY WROTE AND DIRECTED THIS GOOFY THING, AND THEN CAST HIS DAUGHTER IN THE STARRING ROLE!!! MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT GO AWAY! IT PUTS THE LOTION IN BASKET AND DOES WHATEVER IT'S TOLD!
Any creepiness IN the movie is completely overshadowed by the real creepiness of this situation. Go ahead... call me a prude! Tell me it's ART and say I'm being immature and small-minded! I don't care! It's wrong to write a film dealing even peripherally with incest, with scenes of breast groping and pantlessness, and then CAST YOUR DAUGHTER IN THE LEAD ROLE!
It's fine. Write it off as me 'having issues'. Call me a simpleton and say I missed the point. I'll be in the shower with Lava Soap and some steel wool, trying to wash this movie out of my skin.
The Fightin' - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
The complete absence of eroticism during the Topless Female Boxing is compounded by the complete lack of fight choreography. All the fights are completely ridiculous, with slo-mo shots of blood and sweat spraying off the combatants', uh, parts substituting for any real action. The attraction to this form of entertainment is lost on me (doubly so in the case of THIS movie). I can't make the concupiscent connection between nudity and facial trauma.
The most effective fighting scene is the "Big Fight Finale" between Ariel and Julie. The Topless Female Boxing is replaced with another male favorite (which, again, fails to titillate me), the Cat Fight. A brutal, bloody battle ensues and it's far more effective and shocking than the Topless variety.
Overall Rating - 1 - 2
Putting all of my indignant feelings aside, this movie suffers from something far more damaging than any perception of ickyness. This was an unrewarding viewing experience. It's akin to driving by an accident on the highway. You see all those lights in the distance, all the activity up ahead, and your baser instincts take over. It's wrong to want to see this level of gruesomeness. And the feeling of dissapointment we get when it just turns out to be a little fender bender is equally wrong. But you just can't look away. The 'promise' that's implied in a movie that flaunts "Topless Female Boxing" in the description is never delivered. It's replaced by a decent performance by Sonja Bennett, and a horribly misguided attempt at drama throughout it's running time. This is a car wreck of a movie.
|Starring: Sonja Bennett,
|"Reviewing the best (and worst) in Pugilistic Pictures!"|