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USA 1972
Directed by
John Huston
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Fat City

This largely forgotten John Huston film is rather much of an oddity. If  you were guessing you might think it was directed by Robert Altman  - part low budget realism, part black comedy -  it doesn’t exactly work as either but is intriguing nevertheless.

Stacy Keach  plays a 29-year-old boxer Billy Tully, a kind of Terry Molloy (Brando’s character in On The Waterfront, 1954) who’s peaked but despite being well on his way to being a skid row bum harbours dreams of getting back into the ring. He meets Ernie (Jeff Bridges) an 18-year-old with a yen to get into the game, at the Y.M.C.A in Stockton, a two-bit town in California and sends him to his former manager and gym owner, Ruben (Nicholas Colasanto).

The film looks at the lives of these two men and the world of small time boxing, a world of small dreams, most of them broken, with a good degree of heart-felt realism. But there is also a slightly off-beat quality about the film particularly once Billy gets involved with a lush, Oma (Susan Tyrrell, who was nominated for an Oscar ) and her African-American boyfriend, Earl, that, whilst being quirkily amusing, diverts from the film's otherwise predominant humanist sympathies. That no doubt is, however, how Huston wanted it and it fitted the irony-loving mood of the times (it was shown at Cannes where it received an enthusiastic reception).

 With impressive cinematography by  Conrad L. Hall and music by Marvin Hamlisch, for all its small scale this is no cheap production and deserves greater recognition both in Huston’s varied body of work and as an example of Hollywood’s (it was released by Columbia Pictures) attempt to match the kind of street-wise films that were winning younger audiences in droves at the time.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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