Dec. 15, 2009
Fat City (1972)
Grade: 65/100

Director: John Huston
Stars: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Nicholas Colasanto

What it's about. Set in Stockton, California. Stacy Keach is a minor league fighter, already washed up before the age of 30. He spars with promising young newcomer Jeff Bridges, and sets him up with his former manager, Nicholas Colasanto. Nicholas has high hopes for his fresh white prospect, but while Bridges has enough ability to stay in the game, it is soon apparent he will never make the big time.

Bridges has a dumb hottie girlfriend, Candy Clark (her next film was American Graffiti), whom he marries. Keach has less luck, stuck with alcoholic moper Susan Tyrrell, whose intensely whiny performance garnered the film's only Oscar nod. Keach's inability to hold a job forces him to return to the ring, where he faces long odds against veteran boxer Sixto Rodriguez.

In addition to Rodriguez, the movie is stocked with many professional boxers, the better to add authenticity. These include Álvaro López, Ruben Navarro, Billy Walker, Curtis Cokes, and Art Aragon.

Directed by the legendary John Huston, whose two best movies (The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) were made in the 1940s. However, he continued to make interesting films until his 1987 death.

How I felt about it. Huston's presence behind the camera adds gravitas, and it helps that screenwriter Leonard Gardner also wrote the source novel. Best of all, the fight game is presented with some accuracy, as a bleak world of punch drunk men past their time, youth with delusions of grandeur, and rented gymnasiums filled with middle aged men there to see a bloody beating.

Fat City is certainly different from the typical boxing movie. The lead character (Keach) doesn't come remotely close to fighting the world champion, nor does he need money to pay for a family member's operation. He's like Rocky without any lucky breaks, unless Rodriguez's urine tract infection qualifies.

Likewise, the future looks less than sterling for Jeff Bridges. He will win a few fights, but in ten years time he will be like Keach, barely above the status of a bum.

How others will see it. Most folks who see this film do so because it was directed by Huston, because it received an acting Academy Award nomination, or because moviestar Jeff Bridges is second billed. Colasanto will be a familiar face and voice for many baby boomers, due to his beloved character Coach on the 1980s NBC sitcom "Cheers".

Regardless of motivation, the only viewers likely to be disappointed are those who expect the movie to be a comedy or an uplifting drama. Per the user ratings, older women like the film less, presumably because of displeasure over the two female supporting characters: Susan Tyrrell is a pathetic lush, and Candy Clark is an airhead.