“In production during the period when the existential road film and the hippie western represented the height of Hollywood maverick-ism, John Huston’s 1972 ‘Fat City’ was a critical hit—hailed then as the 66-year-old’s comeback and obvious now as the rejuvenated director’s contribution to the New Wave zeitgeist,” writes J. Hoberman in the Village Voice. “Adapted by Leonard Gardner from his first novel, ‘Fat City’ is a laconic, downbeat tale about a washed-up, hard-drinking boxer (Stacy Keach) who encounters and briefly sponsors a younger version of himself (Jeff Bridges), obviously destined for comparable failure.” The film begins a two week run today at New York City’s Film Forum.
“From the start, director John Huston grounds his superb tale of two boxers in the grit of Every City, USA,” writes Time Out’s Keith Uhlich. “There’s no narrative build, per se. It’s just a succession of fleeting, semirealized hopes tamped down by disappointment after disappointment. Yet Huston and his performers give the material an elating, transcendental verve, especially during the sequences in which words fail the characters and interminable silences take over.”
The L Magazine’s Benjamin Strong: “John Huston doesn’t need to show you any stinking badges. Like his buddy Orson Welles, Huston made an impact both as a filmmaker (‘The Maltese Falcon,’ ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,’ ‘The African Queen’) and as a character actor (Faye Dunaway’s father in ‘Chinatown’). Even as a real-life parent, to Anjelica and Danny, he left his mark on the American cinema. And so if some of his later pictures (think ‘Victory,’ the Sly Stallone WWII soccer flick) aren’t exactly first-rate, others deserve Film Forum’s 35mm restoration treatment, including the dreary, drunken ‘Fat City.'”
“‘Fat City’ isn’t a masterpiece — the elegiac tone is a little forced at times, and Mr. Keach’s central performance doesn’t live up to the rest of the movie — but it’s on the short list of boxing movies, along with ‘The Set-Up’ and ‘Body and Soul,’ that linger in the mind,” concludes the New York Times’ Mike Hale.