|'The commitment by Anne Heche and Sandra Oh in throwing themselves into their respective roles mean that Catfight's catfights are anything but exercises in pussyfooting'.|
As the picture above might suggest, the three pivotal fight scenes in Catfight are anything but stereotypical 'handbags at dawn' affairs you might expect to see between two female characters in a more mainstream offering. Instead, writer and director Onur Turkel makes his trio of tussles no-holds-barred punch-ups straight out of the violent animated shorts of the Tex Avery era. Fists are launched at faces, weapons come into play, each blow is punctuated by overblown cartoon-style sound effects, whilst the action is regularly set to a cheery and instantly recognisable soundtrack; Catfight might contain the best use of The Stars And Stripes Forever yet committed to screen.
The fight scenes are amongst the film's most successful sequences for a few reasons. Perhaps top of the list is that Turkel wisely limits himself to three, using each to clearly define the close of an act within Catfight's narrative. It allows each to hit home fully as the enjoyably brutal sequence that it is, concentrating the film's most extreme moments and ensuring each feels satisfyingly realised. The choreography is on the whole well done, and the commitment by Anne Heche and Sandra Oh in throwing themselves into their respective roles mean that Catfight's catfights are anything but exercises in pussyfooting.
Away from its violent set pieces, however, the film falters a lot more noticeably. Taken as a whole, this is a fairly straightforward satire of contemporary America, one which Turkel's script rarely lacks the sharpness to make incisive or funny enough. There are moments here which work well - a group of gallery patrons mistaking the start of Veronica (Oh) and Ashley's (Heche) second bout for a performance piece is particularly well-executed - but there are also far too many which are too blunt. The inclusion of a Saturday Night Live style comedy show being watched by characters at several points throughout could have worked nicely, but instead feels like a ropily written framing device for the background story about a war the US is waging against "the Middle East".
Turkel's decision not to make this politically skewed towards either the left or the right is admirable, but it also leaves his film with very few people to genuinely root for. Both well-to-do housewife Veronica and self-righteous artist Ashley are for much of the film consistently unlikeable, and few of the characters outside of the central pair are developed enough to make up for this. The one exception here is Sally (Ariel Kavoussi), Ashley's continually put-upon assistant whose arc is arguably the most satisfying on offer.
Catfight is released on UK Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on Monday 24th April 2017.