It is very likely that the new Australian film by director Shawn Seet Two Fists, One Heart is going to be a crowd-pleasing success as it ticks all the right boxes. Firstly, like many of the best Australian films from the last 20 years, it is about contemporary and recognisable Australians living in an urban environment, in this case the Perth Italian-Australian community. Heavily influenced by Rocky, it is an inspirational boxing film plus it contains a love story and a father/son conflict. Television actor Daniel Amalm firmly asserts his arrival as a cinematic leading man in the role of Anthony Argo, a young man torn between having a life of his own and living up to the expectations of his domineering father Joe (played by Italian actor Ennio Fantastichini) who wants Anthony to train daily to become a champion boxer. The musician/comedian Tim Minchin has a small role, the dialogue by former boxer Rai Fazio (who also plays Nico, Anthony’s nemesis) is good and the film is shot and edited beautifully. So what is not to like? Unfortunately, despite all the good things going for it, the way that Two Fists, One Heart examines the relationship that the various characters have with violence leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The characters in Two Fists, One Heart have status in and out of the ring because of their ability to beat people up. Being able to punch somebody is seen as an important life skill and violence is often seen as a legitimate way to solve problems. When a young boy who Joe coaches is abused at home, Joe savagely beats the boy’s father – problem solved and there are no repercussions. When thugs threaten the poor, defenceless Kate (new comer Jessica Marais), Anthony is able to puff out his chest and save her like a knight in shining armour. He gets the girl and later sagely convinces her musician brother Tom (Minchin) that he should learn how to protect his sister. Violence, or threatening to be violent, is rewarded in Two Fists, One Heart.
Later in the film there is an attempt to speak out about violence and separate boxing from punching people in the street. But it is not convincing. Instead, the audience are expected to feel sorry for Anthony because of his inclination towards fighting and somehow see the inevitable boxing showdown as some kind of cathartic redemption. It is an excitingly shot sequence, but not thematically convincing. There are many similarities between this film and The Combination and while Two Fists, One Heart is a better film technically and stylistically, it lacks some of the insight of The Combination. Two Fists, One Heart could have been a really good film but it fails to resolve its contradictions.