Fight for Your Life Reviews
A firm script and decent acting doesn't hurt an exploitation film's appeal either (Savage Streets). In true blaxploitation fashion, every character is a stereotype, but luckily they all serve the films subtext effectively delivering what i think to be a quite masterful excercise in reactionary filmmaking. Tarantino could only wish that Django Unchained had the punch Fight For Your Life delivers and it's all down to one characteristic he tragically lacks which this film doesn't, sincerity.
Jessie Lee Kane (William Sanderson, soon to feature in 'Blade Runner' and latterly in TV's 'True Blood') and his despicable gang break out of a prison truck and turn up at the home of a god-fearing, middle class black family. A violent racist, Kane torments the family, particularly the preacher patriarch, until they are forced to fight back.
Lambasted by critics on its release ('sleazy' and 'amazingly racist' were the main gripes); the detractors had somewhat missed the point. The film is decidedly anti-racist, putting the viewer firmly on the side of the preacher and his family - and willing them into revenge - as they are put through the mill by an almost unending slew of racial torrents from Kane. A scene where Robert Judd's minister is literally bashed to the ground with his bible is particularly pointed and evocative.
The film could be pigeon-holed into a vengeful, survivalist sub-genre that would also include Wes Craven's 'Last House on The Left' and 'The Hills Have Eyes' wherein the nice, middle-class family unit becomes more and more atavistic under provocation. The kick of 'Fight For Your Life', as it is with the other movies, is in seeing the peace-loving good guys fight back. An unusual, question-prompting touch is that the good guys are not beyond using racial slurs themselves against the multicultural villains (a white, an Asian and a Hispanic) as they do so.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the movie is the hint of pathos Sanderson brings to his monster towards the end: Kane is played quite clearly as a product of environment, society and (lack of) nurture, not the one dimensional 'evil' painted by most genre pictures.
Another thing about this movie: while it was dismissed as racist trash three and a half decades ago, Quentin Tarantino won the 'Best Screenplay' Oscar for his infamously caustic and 'n' word strewn 'Django Unchained'.
The film is very mean-spirited, not even sparing the children in the violence, but it goes a long way to sell the final act, when the family has had enough.
This is a great little Exploitation film, well worth a look.
Cannibal Ferox: A must-see for fans of the cannibal genre, this film is very similar to Cannibal Holocaust but not as unique or well-written.
Experiment in Torture: Despite a seemingly foolproof exploitation film premise, bad acting, directing, and writing are all that are experimented in and the viewer is the only one who is substantially tortured.
Burial Ground: A near-plotless fest of zombie carnage, the only thing that distinguishes this film from other low-budget schlock is the presense of a tragically undeveloped incestuous love subplot.
The House on the Edge of the Park: Though seemingly a Last House on the Left knockoff, this Deodato film has merits of its own including more nudity, better torture, and a haunting song.
Fight for Your Life: This once-controversial gem contains hilariously overdone racism that a modern audience would quote and laugh at.