Uppercut is a short documentary film by Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari that gives us a brief glimpse of a real life fight club based in Silicon Valley. However this club has no perfectly chiselled Brad Pitts or endearingly dishevelled Ed Nortons; instead this is a fight club with a twist, a self proclaimed ‘geek fight club’. This group of everyday men, based in one of the information technology capitals of the world, regularly abandon their keyboards and coding to meet in dingy garages and attempt to beat the living hell out of each other.
An interesting phenomenon to be sure, and one that is excellently explored through some intelligent filmmaking. The violent cutting of the shots produces a jarring sense of fragmentation, but one that fully complements the brutal subject matter. However, this is soon contrasted by a scene in which one of the members, after briefly shadowboxing with his infant daughter, talks candidly about how this club allows him to form deeper bonds with people than any poker game or movie night, and freely admits that he does it for the hugs afterwards. Another member talks of how the experience allows him to remove himself from his comfort zone, and build the confidence that no corporate team building exercise ever could.
For the members then it seems as though the club is a cathartic tool that grants an instant release from the gradual build-up of everyday frustrations and also a way to experience something that is somehow more real than their usual lives. I think it is no coincidence that the filmmakers constantly draw to our attention the fact that these men spend most of their day on computers living in a realm of bits and bytes. The club is red-blooded, unsophisticated and violent, but it is what reminds them that they all have an inner caveman whose only use for a keyboard is to smash it over someone?s head. This dichotomy is well reflected in the score, which mixes the aggressive thump of fist on flesh with electronic beeps and the clacking of computer keys.
However, this film may be a little too clever for its own good. A great documentary provides an informative and enlightening look at a world that the audience may not know, and its greatest strength is the truth and reality of the subject it portrays. Therefore the documentary filmmaker must be careful about using flashy cinematic techniques that may detract from the core action. For me, certain additions have been made to this film for example stylised audio sounds of connecting blows that make the fight sequences seem like a video game that simply do not work. Nevertheless Uppercut is still an intriguing and educational look at a fight club where it’s computer keys rather than teeth swept up at the end.