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Film Review: Catfight

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There is nothing remotely conventional about Onur Tukel's new film, Catfight, from the outlandish and brutal fistfights, the dark dialogue (delivered with a deadpan manner) to the oddball but surprisingly relevant social satire that underlines the story's development. 

Catfight is a study of cause and effect, two main characters who are mostly separate, but will often come together in cataclysmic chaos and set a life-changing set of events in motion for one another.

The film starts with Veronica (Sandra Oh), who is married to a rich profiteer and mothers an adolescent artist. She has a comfy life, drinks large amounts of wine, and enjoys economic stability.

On the other side, there's Ashley (Anna Heche), an unsuccessful artist and old school enemy of Veronica’s. It's when they meet that their self-loathing comes to a boil and they proceed to project their failures and anger onto one another, which results in life-changing events and having their privileges quickly stripped away. Both characters are fuelled by ego and narcissism, interestingly exploring their apathy towards each other and changing political climates.

Tukel is quick-witted in his scripting, feeding on the near-depressing situations that the characters find themselves in. It's a style and use of comedy that doesn't feel over-done and never comes as expected - much like the rest of this film, it's very unpredictable. Some of the events that occur are results of a war or encroaching war, greeted with harsh realities and often saddening. But again they are slightly uplifted by farcical instances, including a reoccurring television programme that parodies news coverage and features a man in a nappie and a cape, who goes by the name of ‘the Fart Machine’. 

Some of the most interesting and entertaining work is actually the titular fisticuffs between Veronica and Ashley, which happens several times throughout the film. From the first heavy-handed punch, it's quite clear that the pair are full-on trying to murder each other. Similar to the offbeat comedy, the fights never feel out of place or unexpected, they feel normal, which is very unusual for a film with this much sensitivity and intelligence towards character and narrative. It becomes increasingly brutal and bloody, mixing remnants of Fight Club and Death Proof, inducing full frontal wincing and covering of the eyes. 

Catfight mixes joyous battle scenes with occasionally over-dark humour and hits the mark most times. Where most of the film is very creative, in relation to its defining beats and social commentary, a lot of the character building is quite unremarkable and sometimes heavy-handed, to the point where the next scene is so entertaining that the one before is completely forgotten. But the pure insanity of the film’s main premise, mixed with the fighting and the sour dialogue makes the sporadic sluggishness all worthwhile.

It may not be the most enlightening, entertaining or engrossing watch, but film lovers will welcome Catfight’s originality, ingenuity and the exploration of the handful of well-crafted female characters. 

Catfight is out in the UK in cinemas and on VOD on 10th March.  

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