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Ever since he was a boy, Anthony Argo (Daniel Amalm) has been pushed to the limit by his Sicilian ex-boxer father, Joe (Ennio Fantastichini). When psychology student Kate (Jessica Marais) enters Anthony’s life after a chance late-night meeting, he begins to see his life, and the role of violence within it, in a different light. Matters come to a head when Joe meets another promising Sicilian boxer, Nico Mancini (Rai Fazio) - fresh out of prison and full of fire to succeed in the ring. Supported by his best mate Theo (Paul Pantano) and Kate’s colourful brother Tom (Tim Minchin), Anthony is able to finally lay his ghosts to rest. It is only when Nico betrays Joe, and Anthony finally learns some painful truths about his father’s past, that the rift between father and son is finally healed.

In the Australian drama, Two Fists One Heart, Rai Fazio and Daniel Amalm play out a story based on the real life of Rai – but it’s Daniel playing Rai’s alter-ego, Anthony, an Italian young man whose tough father is pushing him hard to be a good boxer. And Rai plays Nico – his nemesis, who gets to fight his on-screen self in the climax. Andrew L. Urban talks to the two young actors about their roles, their backgrounds and how intense the filmmaking was.
Rai Fazio’s father put his arms around Rai and hugged him after seeing Rai’s film about their often tumultuous relationship; “That was about the third time in my life that he hugged me,” says Rai, now reconciled and in a happy relationship with his father.

When he went home after seeing the film, Rai’s dad looked at his mother with a smile: “Your son …..he made me look good. I was worse than that.” His dad is 68, but he’s still down at the gym every day at 5 o’clock.

Rai, who wrote the screenplay, says “it’s about 80% real…” But his own character of Nico is an amalgam of young men who he had come across while his father trained them – including a couple from prison.

"the most realistic boxing ever put on screen"

As for the boxing, Rai proudly claims that it’s the most realistic boxing ever put on screen; “and when I cop it in the big fight, you look closely, I really cop it.”

While Rai Fazio (pronounced in Sicily roughly as Faccio), is Italian, Daniel, who plays the Italian character Dino Dibra in three episodes of Underbelly, was born in Brisbane but is actually Swedish/Maltese. His Maltese mother passed on her olive skin but the dark hair is from the shared gene pool: in Lapland, where his father was born, dark hair is not uncommon.

At his audition for the role (after he had submitted a self-screen test) he was asked to shadow box…and then to take his shirt off, which took him aback but he complied, and the filmmakers watched him throw a few punches. An occasional boxer (and bouncer), Daniel won the part for the combination of his boxing and his acting – both on display in Two Fists One Heart.

He gained a great deal about his character from the script, but he also spent a week up close and personal with Rai, who gave him plenty of emotive material. Making the film was “an overwhelming” experience. The big challenge was to make his character real – and not try to make the audience like him from the start, and to handle the subtle change.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Pro boxing is the field, but the game that's being played here on that field is the more important challenge of a father-sun tussle in which both will end up winners - or losers. While the story is set in Perth, semi-autobiographically for writer and co-star Rai Fazio, the themes are universal, and the simple (but not simplistic) story is delivered with considerable verve by debuting director Shawn Seet and an ensemble cast that makes it zing.

Naturalistic and credible, complex characterisation mark the performances, with Fazio a standout as a belligerent fighter - as opposed to Daniel Amalm's natural boxer. Amalm has a terrific screen presence, and his conflicted relationship with his father, superbly portrayed by Ennio Fantastichini, drives much of the film's dramatic engine. The conflict with Fazio's Nico is the second driver, with his romantic - but still conflicted - relationship with Kate (Jessica Marais - excellent) the third.

Accolades, too, to Tim Minchin as Kate's muso brother, and Rosemarie Lenzo as Anthony's mother, while Kostas Kilias has an impressive presence as the car salesman / boxing promoter, Costas Akidis.

Good storytelling skills keep our attention and we believe enough to care about the characters; they're all flawed, and we might give them advice as we watch, but they find the answers without us. And while there is a predictable resolution, it is satisfying nonetheless - it would be disappointing if it turned out any other way.

There's enough boxing to please boxing fans, but it's neatly balanced by attention to character and the emotional journey that turns Anthony into a man and his father into a wiser man, who has always know that in the boxing ring, everyone is the same, with two fists and one heart. But how to use them all is the most important thing, and that's not always discovered in the training ring.

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