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MOVIE REVIEW

‘Chick Fight’: a funny ‘Fight Club’ for females? Well, no, not really

Malin Akerman (left) and Alec Baldwin in "Chick Fight."Quiver Distribution


Female action movies have their own, very real pleasures and power — New York Times critic Manohla Dargis just wrote an excellent paean to the best of the genre — but they have to come with more brains and originality than “Chick Fight,” a depressingly formulaic comedy available on streaming platforms this week.

Malin Akerman (“Billions”) stars as Anna, a coffee-shop owner whose life is a mess — her mother just died, her business is tanking, and her car has been repo’d — but who transforms from wet noodle to tough cookie when she discovers an underground female fight club where women recover their power by beating each other to a pulp in MMA bare-knuckle brawls.

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Anna shrinks from her first bouts but encouraged by her sassy Black/gay best friend (Dulcé Sloan) — embarrassing movie cliché #1 — she agrees to take on a coach. He is a washed-up falling-down drunk — embarrassing movie cliché #2 — played by Alec Baldwin, who puts her through several exhaustive training montages scored to “Eye of the Tiger”-style rock songs: embarrassing movie cliché #3.

Malin Akerman (left) and Dulcé Sloan in "Chick Fight."Laura T Magruder

There’s a younger, tougher opponent (Bella Thorne) with a mean-girl clique, and a cute ringside doctor (Kevin Connolly), and the heroine’s supportive blue-collar dad (Kevin Nash) — embarrassing movie clichés #s 4, 5, and 6. “Chick Fight” throws a minor change-up by having the dad come out as gay, but only as an excuse for some cringe-worthy sex jokes involving his diminutive new boyfriend (Alex Mapa).

The fights? Director Paul Leyden films them with a numbingly repetitive speed-up/slow-down effect, and after you’ve seen one spurt of fake blood fly out of an actress’s mouth at 48 frames per second, the next 15 times don’t seem so novel. Screenwriter Joseph Downey writes dialogue that floats like an anvil and stings like a wet-nap, and when the plot surprises aren’t unbelievable they’re simply laughable.

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Both writer and director are men, which perhaps explains why much of the talk in “Chick Fight” about female empowerment and channeling one’s womanly rage comes off as lip service on the way to the next beat-down or snuggle-up. Akerman produced, though, and there are a few performances that rise above the garishly cartoonish. All right, only one: actress-comedian Fortune Feimster (“The Mindy Project”) as Bear, the gruff proprietor of the secret fight club. Otherwise, “Chick Fight” is a bantamweight entry in the Ladies Kick Ass department, and next to a certain recently-canceled Netflix series, it’s especially woeful. It’s a very dim “GLOW.”

½

CHICK FIGHT

Directed by Paul Leyden. Written by Joseph Downey. Starring Malin Akerman, Bella Thorne, Alec Baldwin, Dulcé Sloan. Available on demand. 97 minutes. R (language and sexual material throughout, some violence, brief drug use).