I’ll be frank: Chick Fight is a disappointment. With a cast that boasts big names like Alec Baldwin, Fortune Feimster, and Bella Thorne, I expected more from this female-lead action-comedy.
Written by Joseph Downey and directed by Paul Leyden (Come Back to Me), Chick Fight’s premise is just as promising at its cast. Malin Ackerman (Watchmen, 27 Dresses, and recently Dinner with Friends) plays Anna, a woman who can’t seem to get her life together until she is introduced to an underground fight club for women in need of somewhere to vent their anger and frustration.
One of the central problems is that the stakes just aren’t high enough. Yes, we see that Anna’s life is shitty – but we aren’t given any real reason to root for her or believe in her. Similarly, while Bella Thorne is fun as Anna’s tough-as-nails rival Olivia, she doesn’t pose any real threat beyond her physical fighting skills. In fact, their exchanges are so even and pleasant that we can easily and immediately see the potential for a friendship to blossom between them. No clear reason is given for them to hate each other, and therefore Anna’s bitter determination to beat Olivia rings rather hollow.
Chick Fight also lacks the substance and thought necessary to support its superficial feminism. Downey’s script has all of the nuance and subtlety of a car crash, attempting to practically beat the audience over the head with conflict and spell out character development with exposition.
If you strip everything away, Chick Fight follows the same formula as most sports/action movies written by men, for men, and about men. The same pacing. The same cliches. The same forced romantic subplot. Changing the gender and/or race of the characters does not automatically make a film subversive. While Chick Fight is self-aware enough to acknowledge its cinematic forefathers with a few overt nods to Rocky and The Karate Kid, it doesn’t grapple with what it really means to tell this kind of story.
In theory, it is refreshing to see a film with more than one queer character (and not all of them white!). Unfortunately, Chick Fight’s diversity feels just as flimsy and superficial as its feminism. This is clearly a movie written by someone who has not experienced any of the things that they are writing about. Not only is the dialogue awkward and obvious, but every single character is a two-dimensional stereotype.
For a film that features characters from varied backgrounds and walks of life, the protagonist is still a straight, white, cis-woman. The “diversity” in Chick Fight is just window-dressing for a narrative that positions whiteness and heteronormativity at the centre. The other characters, those who are queer and/or non-white, are not given the opportunity to grow, change, or develop. Instead, they exist solely to help Anna on her journey of self-discovery.
Overall, its protagonist may manage to get her shit together, but Chick Fight never manages to be anything more than a weak, vapid mess.
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Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage