In his directorial debut “Day of the Fight,” Jack Huston takes on the challenge of following in the footsteps of Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1951 documentary short of the same name. The film tells the story of Irish-American boxer Mike Flannigan as he prepares for a comeback fight in New York City. Huston’s film, clocking in at 108 minutes compared to Kubrick’s 12, attempts to add weight to the story by incorporating a melodramatic backstory. However, while the film is filled with sincerity and heartfelt performances, it often falls into the clichés of underdog boxing dramas.
Michael C. Pitt delivers a powerful performance as Mike Flannigan, embodying the physicality and emotional vulnerability of the character. Through a series of encounters with people from his past, Mike gradually reintroduces himself to the world. From casual acquaintances to old friends, each interaction becomes increasingly intimate and fraught with emotion. These scenes are where the film truly shines, showcasing the strong performances by the ensemble cast.
However, Huston’s film relies heavily on clichés and stock characterizations, hindering its ability to truly stand out. The accumulation of narrative baggage leads to several emotional crescendoes before the climactic bout, and Huston attempts to heighten these moments with excess and kitsch. This is most evident in a cross-cutting sequence between Mike’s walk to the ring and his ex-wife’s tearful performance in a piano bar. These heavy-handed moments detract from the more authentic expressions of pain and emotion that the actors are capable of.
Despite these flaws, “Day of the Fight” still manages to have heart. It pays homage to Kubrick’s short but falls short in terms of observational economy. Huston’s visual sense, complemented by Peter Simonite’s monochrome lensing, shines throughout the film. The black and white cinematography adds a depth and texture to the story, elevating it beyond its predictable narrative.
Ultimately, “Day of the Fight” is a valiant effort by Jack Huston in his directorial debut. While it may not break new ground in the genre of underdog boxing dramas, it showcases the talent of its ensemble cast and highlights Huston’s visual flair. While it may not reach the heights of Kubrick’s documentary, it is still a film worth watching for fans of the genre.