Josef Kubota Wladyka’s Catch the Fair One is a suspenseful drama that I expect will linger on many viewers minds. The film is about Indigenous boxer Kaylee (Kali Reis) purposefully entering a human trafficking ring intent on finding her younger sister.
Unlike observing the rules of engagement in a proper boxing match, Kaylee can do very little training to prepare for the cruelty she encounters in this ring. There are no breathers between rounds as the film’s tension quickly rises; accelerating from drama to thriller and practically verging on horror at times.
This is the second feature from Josef Wladyka (it counts Darren Aronofsky as an executive producer) and is one of the more exciting films I’ve caught at Tribeca. Wladyka was a previous winner of the “Best New Narrative Director” at Tribeca for 2014’s Manos Sucias. While I didn’t see that first feature, I imagine this film’s tightly-gripping narrative would make Wladyka a strong contender for a similar award.
But Catch the Fair One aims to do more than just entertain as a gritty, revenge story. Created alongside its star Kali Reis, a champion boxer in real life, the film strives to bring light to “parts of the dark reality of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic” according to a statement from Reis. It’s effective in conveying how massive human trafficking operations can be.
The story of this “revenge thriller” blends two different time periods in Kaylee’s life, laying the groundwork for her quest by interspersing flashbacks with Kaylee’s younger sister Weeta (Mainaku Borrero) and how she was lost, with scenes of present-day Kaylee distraught, angry and purposeful. In the past, quickly ends up in a fraught situation after willingly getting into a van with a few other girls and driven to a motel that the traffickers use as a base for prostitution — there are many tense moments in this film.
But Catch the Fair One isn’t violent for the sake of entertainment and Kaylee doesn’t solely rely on muscle or brutality in her rampage. Instead, Reis grounds Kaylee with a bit of her own backstory and gives a nuanced performance that shows her as a plausible character with heart (the vengeful heroes in Taken or John Wick are certainly entertaining but perhaps less plausible). Catch the Fair One remains a taut and grim thriller that has pounded its way into my mind.