There’s a small amount of irony in the fact that HotDocs 2011 alums Bully and Fightville should find themselves opening in Toronto area cinemas on the same day, but both films are inspirational in their own ways. Gunner Palace director Michael Tucker and collaborator Petra Epperlein turn their focus away from war zones and turn to legalized combat for fun and profit in the world of minor league mixed martial arts fighting. The results are satisfying to fans of the sport and those who can’t care less thanks to the splendid choice of fighters being profiled.
Rising stars Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier and Albert Stainback share the services of Layfayette based trainer and established MMA and Jiu-Jitsu master Tim Credeur, but their careers seem to be taking different trajectories despite both men trying to pursue the dream of becoming UFC level fighters. Poirier becomes more and more of a box office draw with every passing fight; his intensity and dedication to the sport are something to be admired. Stainback, on the other hand (and despite having a flair for theatrical Clockwork Orange inspired ring entrances), slacks in his training and ends up getting cut from fight cards due to poor training habits.
While the film will never appease people looking for some sort of justification to the brutal fighting style, Tucker and Epperlein work together to create a gorgeous looking film that will appeal to cinematography buffs and the character arcs are stronger than those in most fictional sports movies. Fightville takes a look at what it takes to be champion and how to truly make it on the outskirts of a professional sport, and it does it splendidly regardless of what your personal opinions on the sport might be.