I love boxing, and I love boxing movies, so I knew I couldn’t miss a movie starring and co-written by real-life boxer Kali Reis. Catch the Fair One is not a boxing movie, however, but it does involve boxing, which is enough for me. In it Reis plays Kaylee, a former fighter whose sister has been scooped up into the world of sex-trafficking. Kaylee, working to maintain sobriety while taking pains to repair her relationship with her family, has also been training for the fight of her life. No, she’s not returning to the ring, but she is planning on entering the world of sex slavery undercover as a victim to try and get her sister back.
What follows is a particularly brutal tale that, to borrow a boxing metaphor, never pulls its punches. This is difficult material that uses a basic Taken shell to explore a world where members of certain populations are not just targeted by criminals, but ignored by society. In true crime circles we refer to the “less dead,” a term used to describe what we see so often on the news: a missing/deceased woman of color commands much less media/law enforcement attention than a white one. In the case of Catch the Fair One, Kaylee and her sister are indigenous — a trait that is desired by many a potential abuser, but also makes a victim much more likely to become a statistic rather than be considered a person. It’s heartbreaking stuff, and it’s all too common.
It’s when the film finds its footing as an action flick that it has the most propulsive narrative thrust, but action is worthless of you don’t care about the people involved. The story takes plenty of time making sure we do indeed care. Kaylee is no John Wick either. She’s got skills and strength, but she’s far from invincible, which, when added to the fact that her targets are the worst that humanity has to offer, makes for compelling action with serious weight.
The supporting cast is quite unique in that it represents multiple different lifestyles/races/sexualities/genders without making any of these factors the prime descriptor for any of them. These are people, not tokens. As a result, the entire cast feels like real people plucked from the real world — which makes the horrors we witness that much more upsetting.
This is easily the highest my adrenaline has been pumped during PFF30, which is saying something during a fest that brought The Sadness, Captain Volkonovog Escaped, and The Novice. I love when a project manifested from true artistic passion hits its mark, and that’s very much the case here.
Part of the Philadelphia Film Festival, October 20-30, 2021; filmadelphia.org/festival