The Fight12¦ DVD
Gear shifts are tricky things. Not in the driving sense you understand, unless you’re American, but where careers are concerned. Once you’ve established yourself as an actor within a specific field, it can be difficult to be accepted – by peers and audiences alike - trying something else. For example, regardless of how good his singing voice is, accepting Jason Statham in the lead of a musical might be a tough ask.
And although Jessica Hynes (AKA Stephenson, back in the day) had her fair share of varied roles at the start of her career, starring C4’s seminal Spaced in 1999, with those cheeky scamps Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, re-defined her as a comedic actor almost overnight.
Now, having managed to deliver some more dramatic roles since, she’s shifting gear once again by not only starring and writing this family drama, but by also making her directorial debut.
Tina (Hynes) is your typical hard-working mum, who, along with her hubby Mick (Shaun Parkes), who works nights, looks after their three young children. She also works as a carer, which quite surprisingly, appears to be the easiest part of her day.
On top of all that, her mum (Anita Dobson) and dad (Christopher Fairbank) are going through some issues, which Tina finds herself getting drawn into, whether she likes it or not.
Although there’s a lot going on, she feels like she’s on top of it, all – just. But when her eldest daughter Emma (Sennia Nanua) becomes the victim of an unlikely bully, Tina’s past comes back to haunt her.
Tina can find only one solution to cope with it all, to fight her way out. So she starts to attend a gym with the hope of confronting her demons in the boxing ring.
The problem with wearing so many hats at once is that it can get a tad overwhelming, and it feels as if Hynes suffers from exactly that here. Wearing the acting hat, you get exactly what you’d expect from such a talent as Hynes; she delivers a strong performance of an everywoman, coping with the many ups and downs that life can bring. It’s a natural, nuanced piece, with glimpses of the humour that comes so easily to her.
It’s the other two hats that are sadly a bit wonky. The script, as well meaning as it is, is too busy for its own good. It’s over-layered with her parents’ woes, her family woes, her daughter’s bullying woes, and those woes from her past that are intent on catching up with her on their tippy-toes. That’s more than enough.
And then you have the montage of Lady Rocky training hard by running up a flight of steep stairs to get match fit. Just by using a metaphor for fighting for your family and yourself would have done, without having to resort to actually include fighting, which feels the more fantastical element of the script. That’s not to say that Hynes couldn’t pull off a fighting film per se (if she went head-to-head with Linda Hamilton, say, she’d definitely be terminated in the first round) but there was no need to go overboard with the glaringly obvious. A little bit of subtlety would have certainly gone further.
It could have been a sharp and savvy look at bullying, and all the baggage that comes with it for all sides concerned, but with everything else going on, every storyline added just waters down the film as a whole, until all that’s left is tantamount to a boxer with one hand tied behind his back.
The most surprising aspect of the film however, is how the hell Russell Brand wangled such a prominent acting credit for his briefest of contributions; there’s no doubt that this review took more man hours to produce than Brand’s involvement, and is easily more entertaining to boot, and is therefore more deserving of a credit. That said, it’s probably some of his best work as he’s barely seen or heard, which can only be a good thing.
It was a brave first attempt however, with just over-ambitious expectations slightly getting the better of Hynes in her first bout of directing. She’s shown that she can take a punch or two, and there’s no doubt she can come back stronger than ever. Cue the Rocky theme tune...