Using a similar ride-along observational style as their 2004 Iraq War doc Gunner Palace (and expanding on a subject touched upon in the duo’s 2009 project, How to Fold a Flag), Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s look at the dog-beat-dog world of mixed martial arts tournaments follows two prospective pro gladiators as they struggle both inside and outside of the octagon. One contender, the A Clockwork Orange–obsessed Albert Stainback, battles personal demons as much as opponents; the other, Dustin Poirier, is a soft-spoken Southerner who’s a killing machine in the ring and is currently working his way up the UFC ranks. A trainer and a boisterous promoter of regional bouts each weigh in with commentary about honor, glory and the cathartic legacy of what’s dubbed “human cockfighting;” surprisingly, the highly political documentarians, Epperstein and Tucker resist editorializing on the subject themselves.
In fact, it’s hard to decipher what their perspective about the sport might be; the film gives you ringside seats to behind-the-scenes preparations and some choice beatdowns, yet stops short at the level of deeper insight. Given the directors’ ongoing fascination with warfare and warriors, their silence on the broader implications of this competitive violence is as cryptic as it is commendable. Fightville doesn’t pummel you with outsider viewpoints—it doesn’t seem to display much of a point of view at all.
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