Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

“Fighting” (+)

This low-budget, sleeper film is absolutely wonderful.  I went to an afternoon show the weekend it opened, and there were only ten other people in the theater.  Big mistake.  Make it your next movie selection.

The story opens with Shawn (Channing Tatum) making his way up Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.  He is carrying books that he will peddle on a corner across the street from Radio City Music Hall.  I know the area well.  My law office is located across the street.  Shawn becomes the victim of hustlers and thieves who steal his wares, but not before he sells a “Harry Potter” book to a young woman who tells him the book is a knockoff and incomplete.

Later on Shawn passes a restaurant, sees one of the thieves and grabs him.  He then meets Harvey (Terrence Howard), a classy hustler who was present at the sidewalk incident.  Noticing that Shawn is in good physical shape and that he went after the thieves, Harvey suggests that Shawn become a fighter for which he will be paid $10,000 a bout.  Shawn agrees to participate in the illegal, barehanded fights that include kicking, choking, and wrestling moves.

Zulay Henao plays Zulay — a gorgeous young woman who shows up at the bouts (and appears to have learned the acting secrets of Rosie Perez).  She is the young woman who bought the “Harry Potter” book.  Zulay, a single mother who works as a waitress, takes Shawn home one evening to meet her grandmother, Alba (Altagracia Guzman).  Alba, whose performance reminded me of Estelle Getty’s portrayal of Sophia in the television show “The Golden Girls,” is hilarious in her responses to Shawn regarding his relationship with Zulay.

Shawn’s last fight is with Evan (Brian White), both of whom grew up in Birmingham, Alabama.  There is bad blood between the two who apparently were wresting rivals on a team coached by Shawn’s father.

The film includes wonderful scenes of New York City, including aerial views of the island’s bridges and skyscrapers.  Seamy scenes of Brooklyn and the Bronx (where the bouts are held) are also shown.  You are in for a really good time if you see this movie.  Every scene is a gem and every actor is superb.  

“Every Little Step” (+) 

This documentary, about selecting a cast for the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” (which opened at the Schoenfeld Theater on Broadway in 2006), is magical.

I saw Joe Papp’s original production of the play, directed by Michael Bennett, in 1975 at The Public Theater.  It was a huge success and moved to the Shubert Theater on Broadway later that year.  The fabulous music was composed by Marvin Hamlisch, and Edward Kleban’s lyrics are brilliant.  The show, which ran for 15 years and received numerous awards, is the best musical I have ever seen.

“A Chorus Line” was based on the taped interviews of numerous individuals auditioning for roles.  Of the thousands who tried out, 17 were selected to appear in the show.  Bennett, the co-choreographer and director of the show, was a creative genius who sadly died from AIDS at the age of 44.

“Every Little Step” focuses on the tremendous success of the show.  References are often made to the original Village/Broadway productions.  In addition to videos of Bennett and taped interviews of the chosen revival cast, footage is also shown of interviews with original cast members.

If you’ve never seen the show, be sure to catch this film.  While the singing and dancing will exhilarate you, the struggles of the performers will occasionally move you to tears.  You might also want to rent the movie version of “A Chorus Line” released in 1985.  Do know, however, that a movie version of a show is rarely as good as the stage production.  One exception is the film “Billy Elliott,” which I thought was far better than the show now playing on Broadway.  The Broadway production is a musical.  The film is not.