Silicon Valley, a haven for geeky computer programmers nestled in the heart of the Bay Area, doesn't seem like the kind of place you'd find a fight club. In fact, you'd be more likely to find a group of guys gathered after work for a rousing round of Dungeons & Dragons than suiting up for serious combat –- yet that's exactly what the men at the Gentlemen's Fight Club do roughly once per month. Thanks to filmmakers Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari, viewers can now get a firsthand look inside this geek fight club in the short documentary 'Uppercut.'

At first glance, it's hard to tell if 'Uppercut' is a legitimate documentary or a clever fake. The men fighting aren't the battle-hardened warriors you'd expect to find in an underground fighting ring; instead they're almost caricatures of what we think of when it comes to Silicon Valley workers –- white guys in glasses softened by years of cubicle-dwelling. However, a quick search online reveals an 'ESPN E:60' segment that proves not only are these guys for real but that the Gentlemen's Fight Club actually predates the Brad Pitt / Edward Norton film by a year. Apparently, it drew its inspiration from Chuck Palahniuk's novel instead.

'Uppercut' from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Filmed in stark black and white, this isn't the glitzy Hollywood take on fight clubs. 'Uppercut' captures the throwback attitude, that inherent need for men to be men in a corporate world that's stripped them of their masculinity through a never-ending series of "team building" meetings and the sedentary lifestyle of the American office worker. GFC is a way for them to reconnect to their masculine roots.

Gints Klimanis, the founder of the club, takes us inside the brutal world of after-hours violence. There are two rules in this fight club: Don't cripple your friends, and do not bring them to tears. After that, anything goes.

What becomes readily apparent in the eight-minute short is that these men aren't so much interested in hurting each other (although severe injuries can, and do, occur) -- they just want to feel something. They're not masochists, per se, but the pain makes them feel alive on an almost primal level. GFC is a scream in the face of corporate conformity that has made these men feel emasculated and out of touch. It's not a coincidence that one of the most popular battle weapons is a keyboard -– a symbol of the banality of their daily existence.

Cooper and Canepari capture that despair, but 'Uppercut' is filled with lighter moments. There's a bond between these men who spend 60 seconds pummeling each other into oblivion but then hug and drink beers in the aftermath. 'Uppercut' could very well be about a group of men with no other way to channel their frustration than through violence, or it could simply be about men bonding in a way that mainstream America doesn't entirely understand. One thing is indisputable, though: Cooper and Canepari have given us a fascinating glimpse into this strange new world. Check out the film above and judge for yourself what it all means.
Fight Club
R 1999
Based on 35 critics

Two men (Brad Pitt, Edward Norton) create an underground boxing club. Read More

May 24, 2016
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