Fightville Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker

Fightville Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is the hip-hop of sports. Scorned at first, MMA soon gained a rabid following, to the point where it's now demanding legitimacy among its peers. That time has arrived, because someone has made a documentary.

I'm no fan of MMA, but I knew nothing about it and wanted to learn. What I learned from Fightville is that it's damn hard to make a living as an MMA fighter, that these particular fighters come from troubled childhoods and that at the end of the day, MMA is showbiz where tickets must be sold.

Fightville centres on a gym in Louisiana where veteran UFC fighter "Crazy" Tim Credeur trains hungry, young punks. That means enforcing gruelling workouts six days a week, as well as instilling self-discipline and self-knowledge. One of his disciples needs the latter. Dustin "the Diamond" Poirier grew up in trouble with law, thinking with his fists, and was raised by a mother who split from his father. MMA provided him focus. Albert Stainback was raised watching his old man beat his mother; he wanted to learn to fight to protect others. Now, he dresses like a droog from Clockwork Orange when he enters the MMA ring.

Grounding the story is promoter Gil "the Thrill" Guillory, who is a straight-up businessman, hyping his fighters to sell enough tickets to pay for the venue, promotion, staff, etc. Despite all the talk about self-actualization, MMA remains a business.

The directors hold a high regard for MMA and pepper their film with lofty quotes from deep thinkers like Nietzsche. The cinematography is beautiful, particularly the use of slow motion, which makes the vicious fighters look balletic. The editing is assured and stylish.

What's missing is more input from the audience. Just who are the folks who love watching two guys beat the hell out of each other? I also yearned for a championship for all the characters to be reaching for and to sustain the story for 85 minutes.

Fightville didn't last the full five rounds with me, but it did have me cheering for a while. (Mongrel Media)