Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at 7:30pm
Ron Peck's Fighters

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Fighters, Ron Peck, 1991, digital projection, 101 mins

“‘Touch a boxer and you touch a saint,’ says Ron Peck with no apology for romanticizing the hardest game of all. And yet the notion is not so absurd: the discipline of the gym, brilliantly captured in agonizing, sweat-dripping close-up, would have satisfied the most rigorous medieval flagellant. Self-denial, the mortification of the flesh, is the hard road to achievement in both callings.

Given Peck’s idealized vision of the fighters, his film could have been either cloyingly sentimental or unintentionally patronizing. Instead, it is quite simply the finest film I have seen on professional boxing and the one which gets closest to explaining the complex nature of the game’s appeal for participants as well as spectators.

For Peck, who speaks throughout as a fan rather than a filmmaker, watching boxing is an exercise in vicarious wish-fulfillment. ‘I can’t even throw punches in my dreams,’ he confesses, ‘but the harder my week has been the harder I want the fight to be.’ For the fighters the imperative is financial. ‘You have to go for it, and hope at the end of the day that your money’s there,’ says one of the fresh-faced young hopefuls who, along with the now retired Mark Kaylor, are the cornerstones of the film.

Peck was shrewd, or perhaps just lucky, to find such an attractive and articulate group to speak for their peers. The contrast is poignant. Kaylor, the ex-champ who topped the bill at Wembley, is now on the inevitable and ultimately unsuccessful comeback, while the youngsters still live in dreams. His fly-on-the-wall technique and the rapport which he clearly established with the group enabled Peck to capture some marvelously intimate moments. There is the abject desolation in Kaylor’s hunched figure, sitting alone in the corner of the gym after hearing that the comeback fight in which he has invested £7,000 has been canceled; or the nerve-stretching tension of the dressing rooms on fight night, with half a dozen fighters cocooned in their own isolation and fear as they wait to be summoned to the ring. Only the true aficionado could have recognized the eloquence of such silent shots. For those who are familiar with Kaylor’s ring style, which combined relentless aggression with courage at times bordering on the insane, the real surprise is his private persona as a gentle, thoughtful house-husband and father. We tend to forget that such public swashbucklers are really just ordinary men with a spectacular job which, like Kaylor, they find wrenchingly hard to leave. The fight game is a demanding and possessive mistress, and she doesn’t let go easily.

There is a paradox in the way boxing, the most colorful and dramatic of all sports, lends itself to black and white photography, and Peck cuts effectively between color and the grainy images inspired by Robert Ryan in The Set-Up, or Robert De Niro in Raging Bull. There is an echo, too, of The Last Mile, walked by so many Hollywood villains to the electric chair, in Peck’s long tracking shot down the corridor from the dressing room to the arena door.”

- Harry Mullan

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.