‘Fightville’: Sport of kings?

April 19, 2012

What can we learn from “Fightville,” a documentary from the team that made “Gunners Palace” about a minor-league circuit of professional mixed-martial arts fighting?

The obvious takeaway from this film by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker is that life within this sport of violence has tamed the beast within a one-time small-time juvie thug named Dustin Poirier. Once a hoodlum headed for a life of prison and small-time crime, Poirier instead embraced a brutal workout ethic and a tough mental approach to fighting – and has become a rising star in the MMA world.

This film captures him just as he’s about to move up to the major leagues. He works out constantly, talking about refocusing his priorities once he found fighting as an outlet.

As contrast, the filmmakers show us Albert Stainback, a baby-faced kid with no real training but a killer spirit. He fights his way up the card, then lets personal problems distract him from training. Also, he begins to adopt a ring persona modeled after Malcolm McDowell’s character in “A Clockwork Orange.”

But, aside from illustrating the rigors of training, “Fightville” doesn’t offer much else, other than a look at the small-time quality of this circuit (as embodied by promoter Gil Guillory) and encomiums to Poirier’s work ethic. The bouts themselves rarely amaze. Poirier is a relentless fighter and watching him fight can be punishing. But there’s not a lot of drama; instead, in many ways, it’s about how the lower rungs feed the top of the ladder with talent.

Poirier is an interesting figure – but his story itself, at least as told in “Fightville,” isn’t all that involving.

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