Fat City (1972) – By Charles Rector

 Fat City is arguably the single most underrated movie made by John Huston. It is also one of the best movies ever made about boxing. It also features the single best big screen performance by Stacy Keach. It is also a strong flick about working class America, which is something that films nowadays hardly ever cover in these escapist times.

Fat City is about boxing and a social clique whose existence revolves around both heavy drinking and the ring. Stacy Keach is Billy Tully, a hard luck fighter who is really more at home in the bar than in the ring. Jeff Bridges is Ernie who wants to become a boxer. Candy Clark & Susan Tyrrell play Faye and Oma, two boxing groupies who hang out with the boxers at their favorite bar. Nicholas Colasanto plays Ruben, the colorful boxing promoter.

Fat City takes an unflinching look at the life of these folks for whom boxing and drinking is a way of life. The audience comes to care about these folks on the other side of the railroad tracks who appear, at first glance, to be nothing more than losers. Fat City may sound like a movie that you are unlikely to care for, but if you give it a chance, it could very well grow on you.

Fat City’s realism came from the fact that its screenwriter, Leonard Gardner, based it on his novel of the same name. Gardner grew up at Stockton, CA, and was an amateur boxer. Gardner’s screenplay reflect his real life experiences on the boxing circuit and the sorts of folks that he came to know. Additionally, Babe the trainer was played by former welterweight and lightweight boxer Art Aragon.

Fat City was a box office bomb that subsequently did not do well in the TV ratings either. As a result, it has been consigned to the dustbin of movie history. The reason for Fat City’s poor economic performance is that people prefer mindless escapism at the cinema, not realistic portrayals of human despair and suffering that do not have much in the line of either realistic hope or comedy relief.

If you are in the mood for something decidedly different from the same old, same old, then Fat City is definitely something for you to consider.