Poetry is not exactly my thing. I mean don't get me wrong, because I can read a poem and appreciate it, and even hear a poem and appreciate it. But when it comes to listening to poets read their poetry, more often than not I feel like I'm being forced to observe self-absorbed douchebags verbally masturbating on a stage, and watching anyone masturbate, in any way, simply is not my thing. So it goes to stand to reason that as much as I don't like watching poets recite their poetry, I'm really not going to like watching a movie about poets reciting poetry.
Taking the notion that somehow the world of poetry slams and the brooding, emotionally crippled poets who lurk therein can be remotely interesting, Fighting Words sets itself up to be the Karate Kid III of poetry movies. Jeff Stearns stars as Jake Thompson, a brooding poet, who also happens to be an emotional cripple, struggling to pay the bills while remaining true to his poetic soul. This means that Jake has high moral standards and a strict code of ethics that precludes him from ever selling out (and, ironically, from writing anything good). Marni Elliot (Tara D'Agostino), a poet rep who really knows the ins and outs of the poetry world sees something special in Jake. And by "special" I don't mean "retarded," although it would take a mentally handicapped person to think Jake's poetry was anything other than crap. But because this hackneyed story needs to move forward, even if it's at a painfully slow and predictable pace, Marni decides to help mold Jake's career. Things become complicated when Marni's superstar poet boyfriend, David (C. Thomas Howell), is thrown into the mix. You see, David is one of the obstacles in the way of Marni and Jake becoming a couple. The other things standing in the way of the romance are Marni's obviously shitty taste in both men and poets, and a plot twist that gives the film a tragic, disease-of-the-week feel. But because this film does not fear to wallow in a cesspool of predictable clichés (not to mention bad writing, pedestrian acting, and an overall lifeless filmmaking aesthetic that begs to be put out of its misery), Fighting Words will most likely satisfy audiences who don't like to be challenged.
To say that I hated Fighting Words would be an understatement. It was like watching a live performance of bad poetry, only worse. The only good thing that can be said about the movie is that turning it off is not quite as rude as getting up and walking out of a live performance. Writer-director E. Paul Edwards is under the impression that poetry can be as exciting as say washing dishes. And to be fair, I have seen some films about poetry that didn't suck (the documentary Slam Nation comes to mind). But in the "skillful" hands of Edwards, every aspect of this movie becomes hard to endure (although, in all fairness, Edwards is not alone in making this film bad). Joining him is the cast, who all seem to be under the impressiion that they are making a good film, but simply can't figure out how to do it (except of course for Howell, who sucks in a class all by himself).
There was not one moment of Fighting Words that I found entertaining. Seriously. It was that bad. But to be honest, I was entertained by the trailer. And the thing that makes the trailer so great is that the word "opportunity" is spelled "opertunity." Clearly, any filmmakers that don't take time to make sure that the titles cards in the trailer that flash across the screen have proper spelling, are also filmmakers that don't take the time to make sure the movie itself isn't a piece of crap. Of course, watching the trailer for Fighting Words only requires a two-minute commitment to figure this out, whereas watching the whole movie is 88-minutes of torture.
Fighting Words is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is good, in that it is clean and free of an noticeable flaws or defects. At the same time, the lighting is a bit flat, and the movie has an overall lifeless look that can be found in many low budget indie flicks of this nature.
Fighting Words is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital. The sound levels are fine, and the audio mix is good, but the dialogue is trite and banal, which hardly makes it worth listening to.
There are cast and crew interviews, but I won't lie: I didn't bother with any of them. Why? Because I hated this movie and didn't care to know anything more about it once I'd watched it.
Here's a poem I wrote to describe my feelings about this movie: Fighting Words, is a big fat turd, a movie about poetry. The script is bad, the story's sad, and it bored the Hell out of me.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]