Day of the Fight
Jack Huston has achieved something relatively impossible: his debut, Day of the Fight, entered in the official competition in this year’s Venice Film Festival, is an absorbing and intelligent drama directed with some shrewdness, inspiring street knowledge and a suspenseful starting point. Because, at the end of the day, another film about a once-disgraced boxing champion is nothing ingenious at this point.
To deliver his boxing drama, Huston has not only invited Ron Perlman and Joe Pesci (a tiny, yet nuanced and awe-inspiring role), but also his colleagues from Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi and the extremely absorbing Michael Pitt (who plays the main role with all his heart). The narrative takes place in one day, the story of a slightly older boxing champion called – by both his fans and enemies – “Irish Mickey”. Professionally, he’s a boxer having his first fight in ten years; personally, he’s a penitent atoning for his previous sins.
We follow Mikey’s journey, consisting of ten places he visits throughout the day before the fight. While walking, he wants to prove he isn’t the underdog people believe him to be. Thus, we learn about his relationships with his loving wife, toxic father and encouraging coach. The interactions and dialogues are written so intuitively and have such fierceness in them that their texture and density inspire reverence in the viewer.
Mikey’s character is combative, but he’s also a guy who has been through a lot, and he is, surprisingly enough, self-aware about how his close community perceives him. Once flighty and too careless, now he is wiser and ready for discussion. His sorrowfulness is enhanced by the black-and-white photography: sadly, the world he perceives is no longer colourful.
Most importantly, Huston interweaves two timelines: before and after the tragic accident caused by a once-champion boxer. Although we quickly guess what has really happened, all the flashbacks are an integral part of understanding the distorted mind of our fighter. A sense of “doing the right thing” drives his ambition and maybe that is why, despite his numerous defects, Mikey is so likeable.
The director rejects any cheap shortcuts and gives us a wildly sophisticated portrait of a fallen husband and father, who goes out on a limb with nothing to lose. Certain things are better left unspoken, and Day of the Fight knows that better than any other film. Sometimes men, besides talking to their close ones and fixing their appalling mistakes, have to wear their boxing gloves, get in the ring and deliver in order to finally cleanse themselves of all their past misdeeds.
Day of the Fight does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.