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'Chick Fight': Film Review

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Malin Akerman plays a desperate woman who joins an underground female fight club in this raunchy comedy also featuring Alec Baldwin and Bella Thorne.

The only thing surprising about Chick Fight is that it took this long for a distaff variation on David Fincher's 1999 classic Fight Club to happen. Not that this Malin Akerman starrer is similar in tone to that film, relying heavily on broad comedy rather than brutal nihilism. That will probably be enough for undiscerning viewers, as well as those who can never get enough of watching attractive women (pretend to) beat each other senseless. There are some undeniably amusing moments, thanks largely to a cast unafraid to throw themselves into the raunchiness and violence with full abandon, but it's hard to avoid the feeling that the film represents a missed opportunity.

Akerman, who also produced, clearly relishes the chance to fully display her impressive comedic chops in the lead role of Anna, whose life seems to be going wrong in every direction at once. She's financially on the ropes and she has a nonexistent love life (perhaps the film's most fanciful plot element). She's still grieving the loss of her mother, and is surprised to learn that her father (an amusing Kevin Nash) has become "sexually fluid" and is in a relationship with a much more diminutive man (the basis for an unfunny running gag). When the coffee shop Anna owns burns to the ground after an unfortunate accident involving a lit joint and some spilled liquor, it looks like she's hit bottom.

Coming to her rescue is her best friend Charleen (Dulcé Sloan of The Daily Show, not just stealing the movie but making sure that no one else even comes close), a lesbian cop who invites her to join a secret women's fight club presided over by the aptly named Bear (Fortune Feimster). There, Anna discovers that she can channel her despair into physical aggression, the only problem being that she keeps getting beaten up. She also develops a romantic and pugilistic rivalry with the club's resident badass Olivia (Bella Thorne), who competes with her for the affections of the club's doctor (Kevin Connolly).

Desperate to improve her skills, Anne turns to Murphy (Alec Baldwin, in enjoyably dissipated mode), a local lush who once "trained Sugar Ray." Viewers won't be surprised by the inevitable Mr. Miyagi jokes and offbeat Karate Kid-style training montages as Anne prepares for her ultimate bout with the villainous Olivia while finding self-empowerment along the way.

Director Paul Leyden (Come Back to Me) and screenwriter Joseph Downey — that both creatives are men tends to reduce some of the film's feminist bona fides, as does the demeaning title — aim strictly at lowest common denominator humor, such as a lengthy segment devoted to Anne having to make an emergency room visit after getting a coconut kicked into her crotch. (The film seems strangely obsessed with fruit, with another major segment devoted to her training by attempting to punch a watermelon open with her bare fists.) While countless films have defied the woefully outdated conventional wisdom that women can't be just as comedically down and dirty as men, the relentless procession of vulgar gags and profane dialogue here feels slightly depressing.

Still, only the most churlish viewers will find Chick Fight dislikable, especially thanks to the presence of the hugely appealing Akerman, who admirably goes for broke, and Baldwin and Sloan, who handle the material with just the right comic insouciance. Credit must also go to fight/stunt coordinator Shauna Gallagher, who stages the violent mayhem expertly. (It's too bad, though, that director Leyden relies on so many bloody slow-motion shots in an attempt to gross out the audience.)

Much like its frequently battered protagonist, you're likely to have a good time during Chick Fight, but you won't feel great about it the next day.

Available in theaters and digital formats
Production companies: Redbox Entertainment, Yale Productions, Media Finance Capital, Idiot Savant Pictures, Do More Productions
Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Cast: Malin Akerman, Alec Baldwin, Bella Thorne, Dulcé Sloan, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Nash, Alec Mapa, Vitoria Setta, Dominique Jackson, Fortune Feimester
Director: Paul Leyden
Screenwriter: Joseph Downey
Producers: Anne Clements, Malin Akerman, Ash Christian, Frances Lausell, Michael J. Rothstein
Executive producers: Shaun Sanghani, Berry Meyerowitz, Jeff Sackman, Lawrence Greenberg, Galen Smith, Bella Thorne, Tiffany Boyle, Elsa Ramo, Marlon Vogelgesang, David Gilbery, Charles Dorfman, Robert Levine, Phyllis Levine, Jayson Dezuzio, Rohan Gurbaxani, Gigi Lacks, Marc McGivney, Gregory Mulligan, Philip James Boyce, Ruben Rodriguez, Benson Taylor, Graham A. Leslie, Ekaterina Baker, Lee Broda, Ryan V. Murphy, James Sears Bryant
Director of photography: Steven Holleran
Production designer: Mailara Santana
Editor: Kevin Armstrong
Composer: Benson Taylor
Costume designer: Keia Bounds
Casting: Bonnie Wu

Rated R, 97 min.

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