Silicon Valley, a haven for geeky computer programmers nestled in the heart of the Bay Area, doesn't seem like the kind of place you'd find a fight club. In fact, you'd be more likely to find a group of guys gathered after work for a rousing round of Dungeons & Dragons than suiting up for serious combat –- yet that's exactly what the men at the Gentlemen's Fight Club do roughly once per month. Thanks to filmmakers Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari, viewers can now get a firsthand look inside this geek fight club in the short documentary 'Uppercut.'
At first glance, it's hard to tell if 'Uppercut' is a legitimate documentary or a clever fake. The men fighting aren't the battle-hardened warriors you'd expect to find in an underground fighting ring; instead they're almost caricatures of what we think of when it comes to Silicon Valley workers –- white guys in glasses softened by years of cubicle-dwelling. However, a quick search online reveals an 'ESPN E:60' segment that proves not only are these guys for real but that the Gentlemen's Fight Club actually predates the Brad Pitt / Edward Norton film by a year. Apparently, it drew its inspiration from Chuck Palahniuk's novel instead.
Filmed in stark black and white, this isn't the glitzy Hollywood take on fight clubs. 'Uppercut' captures the throwback attitude, that inherent need for men to be men in a corporate world that's stripped them of their masculinity through a never-ending series of "team building" meetings and the sedentary lifestyle of the American office worker. GFC is a way for them to reconnect to their masculine roots.
Gints Klimanis, the founder of the club, takes us inside the brutal world of after-hours violence. There are two rules in this fight club: Don't cripple your friends, and do not bring them to tears. After that, anything goes.
What becomes readily apparent in the eight-minute short is that these men aren't so much interested in hurting each other (although severe injuries can, and do, occur) -- they just want to feel something. They're not masochists, per se, but the pain makes them feel alive on an almost primal level. GFC is a scream in the face of corporate conformity that has made these men feel emasculated and out of touch. It's not a coincidence that one of the most popular battle weapons is a keyboard -– a symbol of the banality of their daily existence.
Cooper and Canepari capture that despair, but 'Uppercut' is filled with lighter moments. There's a bond between these men who spend 60 seconds pummeling each other into oblivion but then hug and drink beers in the aftermath. 'Uppercut' could very well be about a group of men with no other way to channel their frustration than through violence, or it could simply be about men bonding in a way that mainstream America doesn't entirely understand. One thing is indisputable, though: Cooper and Canepari have given us a fascinating glimpse into this strange new world. Check out the film above and judge for yourself what it all means.