(Yes, the title of this post IS lame. You're not imagining things. I am here to validate your reality!)
[Review contains some spoilers.]
Anna Wyncomb’s (Malin Akerman) life is in disarray. The owner of a failing coffee shop who’s strapped for cash awakens one morning to find her car getting towed, all while grieving the recent loss of her beloved mother… yeah, things are not great. What she does have going for her is a fantastic bestie in policewoman Charleen (the hilarious Dulce Sloan) and a loving father, Ed (former WWE pro-wrestler Kevin Nash). But, despite the support, it’s still not enough to motivate her to change. Instead she opts to hit the snooze button, as days of depression turn into weeks.
Anna’s shaken out of her slump – literally – when Charleen decides she’s had enough of her friend’s sad sack antics. The cure? An after-hours secret all-female fight club! What in the what? Yep, Charleen is convinced that all her friend needs is a little bravery boost and that getting in the ring is just the trick to set Anna back on her path.
Naturally, Anna resists. Who wants to get the shit beat out of them? Perhaps a visit to a qualified counselor would be a better option? Just me? Okay, then! Soon, Anna is lured into the estrogen underworld when she pisses of the nastiest fighter in the mix (fittingly played by Bella Thorne as Olivia – more on her later) and decides she needs to step up to save her pride. Cue the hard-earned life lessons that conveniently translate inside the ring, and out! (The tried and true trope doesn’t get much of a refresh; it’s like Rocky, with boobies.)
Man, there’s a great film hiding in here! Chick Fight is so close and has so much going for it, including a stacked all-star cast and some whip-smart dialogue. (There are some serious zingers that might make you grateful you’re stuck on your couch for once. You’re free to laugh as loud as you want – it’s your home, damn it!) The aforementioned Malin Akerman is always a delightful onscreen presence and it’s easy to root for her as Anna. And, of course, comedian Dulce Sloan wipes the floor with every single scene she’s in. More Dulce on the big screen, please!
Also, in the mix is Alec Baldwin as Anna’s alcoholic trainer, Jack Murphy. Alec, as we know from the much-missed 30 Rock, has sizzling comedic chops and he gives it his all in this role. (There’s a great reveal about him training Sugar Ray that I won’t give away here, but it’s worth the wait.)
The cast also includes comedian Fortune Feimster as Bear, who runs the underground ring. (She's a favorite of mine, and always brings a special zing.) Plus, there's also the adorable Alec Mapa (from Ugly Betty, as Chuck, Ed’s boyfriend), gorgeous Dominique Jackson (Pose – yay!), and Entourage’s Kevin Connolly (as Dr. Roy. Personally, a meh to me – but, hey! He’s still a big get) all on one bill? Casting gold stars, all around!
Oh, yes! Who can forget Bella Thorne as Olivia? Playing the villain suits her and her limited acting range well. Her performance is one note – maybe two, if you count cropped sports bras as a mood. It doesn’t hurt that we get to see her take a few punches. After her OnlyFans scandal (she made $1 million in a single day) where she subsequently screwed over the platform's main base of sex workers and their ability to earn cash during COVID, no one will be sad to see her down for the count, even if momentarily.
So, what went wrong? One distracting element is the cinematography. The slow-mo effect grows tiresome quickly; overused almost to the point of agony. We get it – someone is going down! Now let’s move on.
Ironically the plot device is the biggest detractor. An all-female fight club seems exciting at first – heck, yeah; women beating the shit out of things! We need, and deserve, to get our aggression out somewhere and sometimes Roller Derby just doesn’t cut it. But it wears thin quickly. The film would’ve been much more successful if this had been turned into the B plot. Instead it’s practically the only plot. Wasted are the stellar actors. There’s so much chemistry between Malin and Dolce. Where is the opportunity to highlight more of their friendship? What’s the real story behind Jack’s (Alec Baldwin’s) alcoholism? Can we see more of the love story between Chuck and Ed? In addition, the main romance between Malin and Kevin is so barely there one has to wonder why it was included at all. There’s a lot of opportunity, but nothing else has a chance to become fully realized in the face of the endless training and fight scenes. And it’s a shame, because this movie is waiting to bloom into a full-blown classic comedy.
Most bothersome – Chick Fight is written and directed by men. It feels like this particular story would be the perfect opportunity to put some women in the top spots. Granted, Malin is one of the producers and that’s great. But it feels like this story would benefit from more input from the ladies. I love seeing strong women, of course – but I wasn’t the biggest fan of seeing them repeatedly get punched, even if it was by other females. Anna’s initial catharsis ultimately gets lost in the pummeling. If this is someone’s idea of feminism, it feels misguided, at best.
Chick Fight has a lot of potential, and there are definitely laughs to be had. Unfortunately, the violence overrules the comedy, with few surprises from a fairly predictable plot.
Nuggets! Additional thoughts on the flick:
(Stop. Do not read if you want to avoid major spoilers!)
*: There are plot holes galore, especially the storyline involving Anna’s mother. Um, Charleen was fully aware of (and involved in) Anna’s mother’s secret pastime, of which Anna had no knowledge? Really?
*: Speaking of, Anna’s mother was fighting in the ring right up until she died of terminal cancer. That's physically possible how, exactly?
*: Because I’m still on this thing with Anna’s mom. Her mother died recently. Anna is a full-grown adult, in her late 30’s (if not early 40’s). Yet her mother kept this secret from her. And, again, her best friend knew. And her father knew! Yet her mother made a video, telling Anna about the club, featuring Anna’s best friend, instead of choosing to tell Anna directly? I just… I don’t understand.
*: But who gets to keep all the cash pinned to the wall? A lot of work went into setting up that plot, which goes nowhere. I fully expected something to happen with all of that money! (Can I have it, if it’s just laying around?!)
*: All of that punching might be a release, up to a point. But mostly it just seems like toxic masculinity masquerading as pro-women. Let’s solve everything by hitting each other!
*: A shout-out for the fun soundtrack.
Closing Time: No extra scenes, bebe. Go back to your Netflix now.