Digital Playground’s Fighters (2011) is like an onion… except that onions aren’t very sexy, so maybe it’s like a layer cake. Or an artichoke.
Point being, there’s a lot going on with Fighters… you just have to be willing to get past the choke of too much frosting on top.
(pictured: buy your copy of Fighters and/or watch it now here)
Fighters is Digital Playground’s Big Fall Release!! for 2011. It arrived on my doorstep glorious – three discs (including a blue-ray version of the film, which was totally lost on me) covered with all kinds of “Fight, girl!!” affirmations. Here’s the box copy:
Two beautiful, passionate girls from opposite walks of life come together in a battle of lust, raw emotion, egos and unyielding wills to fight it out in a stealthy boxing match. Gorgeous yet tough Jesse Jane combats her troubled home life with her perverted, skirt chasing father, Tommy Gunn, and finds her intense desire to fight the help of her naughty sister Riley Steele, and compassionate coach Scott Nails. Sexy Kayden Kross punches out her deep seated feelings with a fiery need for boxing, supported by her sexually ravenous best friend Stoya and a horny young house guest. Fueled by their inner demons, Jesse and Kayden come face to face in the best performances of their careers, ready to box it out and ultimately test whose desires and passion will prevail. (sic)
So, terrible terrible awful embarrassing writing aside (seriously, Digital Playground… hire a copy editor!!), I went into Fighters expecting an amalgamation of Girl Fight (2000) and what I think happens in Warrior (2011), maybe with a little memory/fantasy of Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) thrown in. Definitely empty calories; but Girls Fighting always amounts to a flavorful (albeit often guilt-inducing) snack, so I gave it a watch…
…and found that Fighters was way more satisfying than the silly box text let on!!
Fighters is a tale of twos – two very different young ladies struggling with daddy issues, two very different but almost equally shitty fathers, two very different ancillary hott chics (frosting), and two other – also different – hott chics that drive a subplot that is both compelling and deeply problematic.
(pictured: Jesse Jane and Kayden Kross in Fighters)
Poor little rich girl Kayden Kross is very unhappy. She drifts around her mansion, alone but for the maid, opening college-related mail, banging her boyfriend Manuel Ferrara, and hanging out with her bff Stoya. The only thing that seems to make her happy – because let’s face it, she’s got a rough life – is the boxing training she does… with her private trainer in her private home gym.
Now, I don’t mean to sound unkind – Kayden’s character (creatively named “Kayden” in typical DP-fashion) is all but completely ignored and occasionally bought off by her father, and that has to be rough. Kayden (the performer) does a good job of conveying this.
(pictured: Kayden training, supposedly too pretty to box…)
Poor little poor girl Jesse Jane’s unhappiness manifests more as anger. Her mother has died by her own hand, her dad (Tommy Gunn) is a burnout asshole banging some vacant high-school slut (played so seamlessly it was apparently effortless by Bibi Jones), and she’s about to get kicked out of school for being a super trouble-maker. Her younger sister “Riley” (played by… wait for it… Riley Steele!!) is just kind of there for moral support… sort of an adorable, kind-of-but-not-really sidekick.
When juxtaposed with Kayden’s “Kayden,” Jesse’s character is easier to get behind. Poverty, be it urban or suburban (both of which are alluded to in this film), and the loss of a parent are a lot to deal with. Put simply, in terms of structural disadvantage, Jesse’s life seems harder, her struggles greater. So when she and Kayden found themselves face-to-face in the ring, each ready for their first beat down ever with a previously unknown fellow hott chic, I admit I was in Jesse’s corner.
(pictured: Jesse training, or kicking Bibi’s ass)
So, simply on the basis of these key plot elements, Fighters was pretty good. Although some of the dialog was absolutely painful, director Robby D did an excellent job delivering two completely independent stories, both of which crystallized perfectly in the end.
But like I said – layer cake, in twos…
Kayden and Jesse both did an excellent excellent job here. I’m no boxer, but Kayden was convincing as a relatively icy and isolated fighter in training struggling with intense, deep-seated abandonment issues. And Jesse did just as well as the relatively raw and out-of-control fighter dealing with issues that were just as intense, but far more immediate.
And the dads – we never even see Kayden’s dad, which was appropriately telling; and my, oh my Tommy Gunn were you great/gross!! Both fathers, be they banging high-schoolers or off in Europe somewhere, were perfect fuel for their respective daughter’s fire. This gave the characters and the film a certain depth that is often lacking.
The main story lines were delivered well, but I gotta tell you – it was the subplot involving Vicki Chase and Stoya that really stood out to me.
As we know, Stoya plays Kayden’s bff. Stoya’s character, “Stoya,” is equally wealthy and equally ignored/abandoned by her parents. But rather than punching it out like Kayden, Stoya acts it out by epitomizing the “bratty rich bitch” stereotype with effortless gusto: spending money, fucking and fucking around, and marginalizing others who are less fortunate that she in a really deplorable way. This is where Vicki Chase’s character, “Vicki,” comes in.
Vicki plays Kayden’s maid’s niece, brought in to learn how to clean. Vicki is sweet and friendly when she first meets Kayden, who is sweet and friendly back. But Stoya sees Vicki in an entirely different light, addressing her as “Little Yummy” and asking after “…that sexy little ghetto slut” because “[she likes] Mexican.” As in the food.
There are serious race and class tensions between these two characters throughout the film, with Stoya exploiting every opportunity to festishize and manipulate Vicki. In particular, she corners Vicki into banging her “Meat Puppet” (Erik Everhard); and later, she manipulates Vicki into… err… lending her her man (Toni Ribas). Vicki, in a moment of really great acting (I’m being serious – she was really convincing), seems extremely pained and upset by this.
(pictured: mean bratty rich Stoya, played by Stoya)
Stoya’s character in this film is across-the-board deplorable. With the exception of her relationship with Kayden, she is commodification and white privilege taken to the extreme – self-absorbed, manipulative, racist, classist, and even sexist… all while being breezy and careless and completely unaffected. She engages scripts ranging from “Don’t you want to keep hanging out with the cool rich kids?” to “Do this, or you’ll be out on your ass!!” to manipulate Vicki.
It’s pretty icky; and both Vicki and Stoya did a great job of embodying this ick, which was impressive. And Fighters needed this tension, or it at least needed Vicki’s “ghetto” character – who else was going to let Kayden know about Open Fight Night Fridays, which is where she eventually boxes community-service/detention-serving Jesse? (they don’t have things like that in Ms. KK’s DP neighborhood)
Layers!! And there were even more!! Layers like…
…there was some sex in this movie – eight whole scenes!! They were all boy-girls and all just fine. Riley’s scene with Ramon Nomar (I always want to write his name “Ramon nomaR” heee!!) made the least amount of sense plot-wise. Jesse’s scene with Scott Nails was excellent, minus the god awful crying faces she was making during the lead in. And speaking of Scott Nails, he was suuuuper hott in this movie, overshadowing the ordinarily distracting Manual Ferrara by quite a bit.
In sum, I’ve read a couple of other reviews that loved Fighters but were disappointed by the ending…
…but I was not. Like I said, I was rooting for Jesse going in to the end, but I really liked the fact that we don’t know who wins. Both ladies were facing issues far larger than themselves, and both walk away from the fight apparently satisfied at having dealt with their struggles in some way. The ending helped maintain the storylines’ independent, yet equal, weight.
I thought it was really well done.
(pictured: DP Fighters girls)
Recommended for: fans of highly-stylized, conventionally pretty content; fans of DP content and DP girls; fighters; and people looking for tips on dealing with troubled youth over the age of 18.
PS Digital Playground makes every effort to clarify, over and over again, that the characters in Fighters are of age… even if some of them are still in high school.
With performances from Jesse Jane, Kayden Kross, Riley Steele, Stoya, Vicki Chase, Bibi Jones, Tommy Gunn, Charles Dera, Erik Everhard, Manuel Ferrara, Ramon Nomar, Scott Nails, Toni Ribas, Brandon Calco, Kaiser Sousay, Chat Noir, and Marco Rivera.
D. Pachard plays Principal Mayweather, Jesse Jane’s guidance counselor/school principal. She was awesome!!
Written and directed by Robby D for Digital Playground. Fighters released in September, 2011.
Buy your copy of Fighters and/or watch it now here
Check out other PVV reviews of Digital Playground content here.
BTS: there’s a whole disc of BTS stuff – interviews, deleted scenes, and the like.
Here’s the trailer!!
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