Veronica (Sandra Oh) is married to a successful businessman, the rather cold Stanley (Damian Young). They have a two houses - "an apartment in Soho, and a little place in the Hamptons", a maid, and a reasonably well-adjusted teenage son in the form of Kip (Giullian Yao Gioiello). But you can never have it all: Veronica has a drink problem, and Stanley's reached the end of his tether as a result.
On the other side of New York - Bushwick - Ashley (Anne Heche) is an artist struggling to sell her rather unique, if somewhat violent, paintings. Her girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone) isn't happy - she wants Ashley to stop chasing her dream 12 hours a day and get a real job.
These two disparate characters meet when Ashley agrees to help Lisa at a plush business party she's organising, which is being hosted by Stanley. Ashley is serving food and cocktails, Veronica is working the room while getting slowly drunk - much to her husband's quiet disdain. When the two women bump into one another they quickly recognise each other from their college days.
Their smiles may suggest friendliness but there's an awkwardness to their movements which suggests a tainted history between them. As they proceed to ask each other about how their lives have thus far panned out, the cattiness becomes increasingly less subtle.
It all descends quite quickly into a spat on the stairwell, the two women punching the living daylights out of each other. The end result is that Veronica winds up in a coma.
When she awakes two years later, she's distraught to learn that her husband and son have died. Adding insult to injury, she discovers that Ashley has found success as an artist and finally married Lisa.
And so, another confrontation ensues - this time in a parking lot. The downward spiral continues for this pair of dishevelled individuals...
On paper CATFIGHT sounded like a riff on 2003 Japanese film 2LDK. But whereas that pitted two flatmates against each other, both vying for the same acting gig, this elaborates and builds whole lives and histories around its antagonists. It should, in theory, be a more satisfying deviation. Alas, it falls short on several levels.
Firstly, the main characters aren't likeable. They're surly, snotty, wisecracking types who wear their insecurities on their sleeve without any attempt at eliciting our sympathies. The performances aren't bad, but unfortunately Oh and Heche are saddled with clichéd traits and stereotypical circumstances which fail at every turn to satisfyingly flesh them out.
Writer-director Onur Tukel weaves themes of class divide, homophobia and empowerment into his screenplay. But each of these is only explored lightly. Scratch the surface and there's precious little being said; there's no real insight into what drives these characters, or what justifies their increasingly insane behaviour.
Pacing is also a problem. After the initial exposition, we get a slapstick-style fight which culminates in a lull to proceedings, followed by another scrap, another lull, and then a climactic battle. Towards the end Heche and Oh are allowed to show a little humanity - but by then it's a case of "too little, too late". We don't care for these characters by that point.
The humour is catty and a little off-putting too. Tukel can't help but add snide one-liners even into scenes that are meant to add a little warmth into proceedings. And, worst of all, none if it is very funny. It's too cold to resonate.
The fight scenes are well-choreographed and the film looks nice throughout. It's mildly shocking, at first, to see two women knocking seven shades of shit out of one another - complete with blood and bruises. But, really, unless you have a troublesome fetish for such fare, that's scant reason to recommend this technically adept but dramatically barren slice of cinema.
CATFIGHT comes to the UK courtesy of Arrow. They're releasing it on both DVD and blu-ray formats. We were sent a screener copy of the former to review.
The movie looks good on Arrow's UK DVD. It's presented uncut - 95 minutes and 12 seconds in length - and in its original 16x9 ratio. Framing is accurate, flesh-tones are true, definition is smooth and detailed. There are no compression or motion issues: it's as bold and clean as you'd expect from such a modern film with healthy production values.
English audio comes in the form of a striking 5.1 surround mix. Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read at all times. These cater for the hard-of-hearing so do be aware that they include cues as well as dialogue ("music plays on the radio" etc).
An animated main menu page leads into a static scene selection page offering access to the film by way of 12 chapters.
The only extras on offer are trailers for ARMY OF ONE and THE VOICES, both of which are defaulted to play upon the disc's start-up. It's worth noting - and potentially annoying for those yet to make the leap to HD - that the blu-ray proffers two audio commentary tracks, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a deleted scene and the film's original trailer.
CATFIGHT takes a very basic idea and draws it out to feature length, without the characters or plot to support such an endeavour. It's all a tad unsavoury, and Tukel seems a bit too disinterested in adding weight through symbolism for my liking. I found this a bit of a chore to get through.
Also available on blu-ray.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Arrow Video|