Combat sports in Ireland is currently in the midst of a golden age, especially when looking at success, and notoriety. The major films released in the last year and a half only justify this claim. A little over a year ago, we had Conor McGregor: Notorious, which documents the rise of mixed martial arts megastar Conor McGregor. Now, KATIE, which tells the story of women’s boxing champion Katie Taylor, continues this great Irish takeover.
As recently as Creed II, we’ve seen that audiences still love a good underdog story about a boxer. And unlike Creed, KATIE is not fictional; it’s a real-life underdog story. Katie Taylor not only sits as the current IBF and WBA lightweight world champion, but she also won gold at the Olympics in 2012. In KATIE audiences are shown how she has overcome the odds by single-handedly making women’s boxing a respected and recognised part of the sport.
Director Ross Whitaker splits the film into two halves. Taylor’s quest for Olympic gold is the initial focus, and then her transition to the professional ranks carries the remainder of the narrative. However, it is also a tale of two stories when looking at quality, as the first half proves to be much stronger than the second.
The Taylor family provide great insight into Katie’s childhood. They highlight her desire to play sports, her competitive streak, which naturally led her to pursue a career in boxing. They also highlight the struggles and obstacles she had to face on her way to London 2012. Whether it’s getting around Ireland not sanctioning women’s boxing or pushing the committee to include women in the Olympics in 2012, so her dreams could actually become a reality. Nothing could stop Katie from achieving her dreams.
Ross Whitaker also brilliantly makes use of old footage, such as the Olympic final match against Sofya Ochigava. As the Taylor family explain their emotions while watching the contest, the actual fight is beautifully cut together to recapture that feeling of anticipation, and nervous energy everyone felt in 2012. Even though we all know what happens, when we watch the announcement that Katie has won, there’s a sense of relief as well as great joy seeing this lifelong dream come true.
Also, when a documentary recaps a story that many may be familiar with, it’s extremely beneficial when they can offer images and clips that have perhaps never seen the light of day. It not only makes the narrative a little refreshing but also gives audiences a feeling that they are watching something unique. Fortunately, the film has this, and it is particularly beneficial when they explore the ups and down of Katie’s relationship with her father.
Unfortunately, this film suffers from similar problems that made Conor McGregor: Notorious such a disappointing piece of cinema. While Katie Taylor’s story is explored in much greater detail than McGregor’s was, the most captivating and intriguing parts are all crammed into the first half of the film. And as we transition to her professional career, KATIE can feel unnecessarily long.
The journey to the WBA title has less drama, obstacles, and feels a little too simple. Whereas her journey to London 2012 had more ups and downs, as well as the father/daughter relationship. They could have spent the 89-minute runtime on the quest for an Olympic gold medal, which would have likely led to a stronger end product.
Despite a less fulfilling second half, Katie Taylor’s quiet charisma ensures you continue watching till the end as you want to learn more about this driven individual. Also, the feel-good factor of watching Taylor overcome the odds, and change women’s boxing for the better leaves you with a big smile on your face, making KATIE a fun and inspirational experience.
Dir: Ross Whitaker
Prd: Ross Whitaker and Aideen O’Sullivan
Editor: Andrew Hearne
Runtime: 89 Minutes
KATIE is available on VOD now