10 July 2005 | id247
Not a bad effort Jesse, would like to see you work with a better script!
I worked with Jesse Johnson in the UK in 1988 on his first short film Old Priest, an homage to spaghetti westerns. It was clear then he showed talent, and 17 years later I was delighted to see his latest work The Pitfighter on French TV earlier today.
On the plus side we see Jesse working with a limited budget to produce a competent, professional effort, with much style and thought. Steven Bauer is excellent and gives this tale of a man seeking redemption some weight. Jesse's script could have done with a further re-write, but shows moments of humanity in amongst all the brutality.
On the negative side though there is too much unnecessary violence, which negates the film's many thoughtful and tender moments. While I expected some tough moments during the fight sequences, it was the violence outside of the ring that surprised me. The scene in a car park of man getting his mouth smashed in with an icepick for me was way over-the-top, as were some of the shootouts.
I'd like to see Jesse Johnson given a decent budget, and perhaps someone else's material, at this point in his career his directorial skills far outweigh his scriptwriting ability. He has the ability to make a full-blown Robert Rodriguez/Sam Peckinpah style film, but only if he acknowledges his own failings and works in collaboration with others who can compliment his abilities.
You may be interested to know that when I watched this on French channel TPS, it was about 5pm on a Sunday afternoon, and before the film they showed a caption saying that this film is not recommended for children under the age of TEN! They must have tough kids in France, in the UK this film would have an 18 rating for sure.
I've given this film 7/10. Recommended for those action fans who like to see what is possible on a small budget, and those of you who like your fight sequences realistic and brutal.