Split Decision (2013) – By Joshua Samford

Women’s boxing, as a sport, has faced a great deal of opposition during our modern times. Banned in numerous countries for the better part of the 20th century, in America it did not receive a fair amount of popularity until the 1990s came along. Even after this, female competitors are still considered a far lesser draw than men. You can ask any novice fight fan what they think about the sport, and you might get any numerous reasons why they don’t enjoy women’s boxing. Unfortunately, many of these reasons fall back on faux-chivalry, but often it seems as if some men are intimidated at the prospect of a powerful woman. There have been numerous films at this point to use women’s boxing as a backdrop for similar drama, Girl Fight and Million Dollar Baby certainly come to mind, but this facet of American culture is still very open for discovery. Split Decision is a short film by Antoine Allen and it looks to explore the difficult nature of being both a female in a male-centric sport and being a 21st century woman with complex needs and problems.

Split Decision focuses on a young woman named Lola. She lives with her parents who are very formal and staunch in their ways, but her father is the most domineering force within her family. Lola spends her evenings training to be a professional boxer, but her father feels a woman’s place should be in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Lola’s love life is becoming even more complex than the friction she has with her parents. She has both a girlfriend and a boyfriend, neither of whom know about the other, and she is only a couple of days away from her first professional bout. Lola is receiving drama from every corner of her life, and she is also experiencing strange dizzy spells and unexplained headaches. As Lola moves steadily towards this first professional bout, the drama in her life also seems to be heading for a massive confrontation.

At 28 minutes in length, I have to give writer/director Antoine Allen credit for building a structured story that delves into numerous areas without shortchanging his ideas. There are subplots thrown around, multiple unique characters, a decent plot twist, and most of these elements are given their time in the spotlight. That is a difficult thing to do for any scriptwriter working with such a limited amount of time and budget. I believe that Allen was able to produce, for the most part, the exact film that he wanted to. It is a good looking short that is obviously quite ambitious due to its various locations and its assortment of varied characters, however, there are some obvious issues that hold it back from being an amazing piece of work. The performances in the film are a mixed bag, for sure. This plays out as a melodrama for the most part, so over-the-top performances can be expected, but in the moments where drama isn’t being flagrantly thrown about, some of the acting comes across as rather stilted. This is of course an independent production, and anyone who deals with many indie films will find themselves growing rather lenient with stilted dialogue being recited. Split Decisions does have its share of difficult scenes, however, so it is hard to judge it hastily. When it is called upon, the actors do keep the audience engaged in what is happening on screen. For that, they deserve some credit.

With all of that said, the movie has its heart in the right place. The cinematography is of a professional level and the plot does a good job of building, and building, until it reaches a dramatic apex that stands out as an intentionally chaotic mess that closely resembles the mental state of our lead character. To pull off the final scene in this film, the moment that the entire short has been building to, without being laughable or seeming too overtly fake… it is a task to be admired. Overall, this is an interesting experiment by a growing filmmaker. Allen shows great promise and is worth keeping an eye on. You can read more about the film via the official website: http://www.splitdecisionshortfilm.com