Movie Review: “Fightville”

Albert Stainback from Fightville promotional material

Fightville is a documentary produced and directed by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker that follows the Louisiana professional MMA through the lens of prospects coming out of UFC veteran Tim Credeur’s Gladiators gym. The documentary gives particular focus on the rise of young star Dustin Porier to the ranks of the world’s largest MMA promotion, where he has had notable success since the film was finished.

As both a movie and a learning experience, Fightville succeeds on so many levels that it’s difficult to list them all. Perhaps the best part of the documentary is that it has something to offer everybody.

One of the first characters shown in the film is Gil “The Thrill” Guillery, promoter of a Louisiana MMA organization, USA-MMA. Guillery is an incredibly charismatic character in his own right, but his presence establishes early a lot of important and often overlooked information about MMA.

For those with only a passing knowledge of the sport, Guillery and his USA-MMA promotion explain succinctly state and regional level MMA shows and how they build prospects to the big leagues. It also shows the financial hardships and sheer human labor that goes in to producing a professional show at any level of competition. The film follows Porier and his teammates as they climb up the ladder at USA-MMA, as well as showing the slow growth of the promotion from playing outdoor rodeos to real stadiums.

Even those who know the inner workings of MMA’s competitive ladder learn a lot from the scene depicted in Fightville. While all state and regional level MMA have some things in common, there are also specific flavors to the culture in different parts of the country. Fightville gives the audience a great sample of MMA with Cajun spice, which can be eye opening to MMA insiders from other areas who feel that the sport’s culture is just what they’ve experienced.

All the people shown in Fightville have tons of personality. Porier’s youthful and very raw emotion is captured by the camera in some beautifully subtle ways. In his first high-pressure fight shown in the film, Porier is seen looking to his corner like a frightened kid, then instantly changing his demeanor as his opponent entered the cage.

Porier’s teammate Albert Stainback, who becomes the secondary protagonist as he struggles to maintain his training with his rocky personal life, has a great mix of humor and sobering reality. But, of everyone in the film, Credeur steals the show.

A fighter with a reputation for being a little gruff even by fighter standards, Credeur gets finely poetic when he talks about the martial arts. His scenes, whether he is sparring or instructing, depict the violence and beauty of MMA as inextricably connected. Credeur is a breath of fresh air from the standard illustrations of MMA as being either entirely a bloodsport or something sanitized for children.

The film-making that went in to Fightville is also top shelf. The shot composition is all very well done and very purposeful. Considering many of these shots were fight footage taken with one camera, it’s no small miracle on Michael Tucker’s part that he was able to film and blend together such an artful setup.

By far the best part of Fightville as a cinematic experience is the rarely-mentioned sound mixing. Sound mixer CJ Degennero is the unsung hero of this movie and, while everyone’s work on the film was well above average, his contribution is Oscar quality. The soundtrack feeds and molds into the individual scenes so well and its Baroque variations on themes ties the emotions of different moments together so perfectly that the whole film is uplifted by the process.

Fightville is worth seeing for anyone and everyone. One day this movie will be viewed with the same reverence as Ken Burns’ Unforgivable Blackness in the pantheon of combat sports documentaries.

1 Comment on Movie Review: “Fightville”

  1. How do you see this movie? It looks like it just has a couple of screenings in NY and Europe.

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