Catfight ★★★½

I hadn't heard of director Onur Tukel prior to his promotion for Catfight, which included genial podcast host Doug Benson throwing both the abrasive Tukel and star Anne Heche off of a contentious live recording of Doug Loves Movies (well-behaved co-star Sandra Oh stayed for the whole show). If it was a PR stunt, it worked, piquing my interest in this surprisingly sharp comedy that was clearly the work of a madman. Heche and Oh are both wonderful as women with a history who cross paths at moments of ill-temper and beat the living snot out of each other multiple times. While some of Tukel's comedy is limp, there are also keen bits of satire, and some strong (and ably thrown-away) punchlines. With a clenched fist around the frayed nerves of our times, Catfight offers some surprisingly gentle and fresh insight into the fetishization of rage and shame, as well as some of the ridiculous ways we try to manage those impulses. There's also a lot of hitting: face-punches, hammer strikes, and head-pounding, and all of it bracingly fun, if that kind of thing can be fun.