(director: Nick Sarkisov; screenwriter: David McKenna/from a story by Frank Ragen; cinematographer: Paul Ozgur; editor: Mark Sanger; music: Michael Brook; cast: Elizabeth Reaser (Susan), Stephen Dorff (Cash Boykins), Donald Faison (Mr. Stewart), Daman Mann (Jett Boykins), Ava Capri (Keaton Carmichael), Colin McKenna (Quinn), Said Taghmaoui (Claude), Karrueshe Tran (Jade), Leopold Manswell (Kareef Hardicke), Drew Starkey (Tanner Van Holt), Emily Towles (Hot Assistant), Mimi Davila (Patty Martinez), Tyron Woodley (Self); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sergey Sarkisov /Scott LaStaiti /Eryl Cochran; IFC Films/Blitz Films; 2020)
“I would never think of watching an MMA fight, nor would I ever want to see this ugly family drama again, nor would I care to ink up my body as the film’s star does.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Georgian director Nick Sarkisov (“Krasny”), the son of a Soviet diplomat from an oppressive regime and a former film student at UCLA, directs this ‘over the top’ macho mixed martial arts drama in a not too credible way–with its false mantra being that only violence can conquer violence. It’s based on a story by Frank Ragen, and its slight story is written in an amped-up way by David McKenna that calls for no examination of its star’s inner turmoil. Instead it leaves us with a cartoonish take on its high octane hero-villain, as the sports film eventually moves into fantasy turf and gets lost in its excesses. It’s about an abusive champion boxer father, who abuses everyone around him including his boxer son. It’s a character study of someone vile who can box and has few other virtues.
The film’s star is the narcissistic Alabama-based MMA welterweight champ Cash Boykins (Stephen Dorff), modeled after the foul-mouthed real-life ruiser MMA welterweight champion Conor McGregor. Cash, played by Dorff in a purely physical way, is the absentee father until recently when he gets together again with his sensitive 18-year-old boxer son Jett (Darren Mann). He ignores his younger son, the special-needs Quinn (Colin McKenna), whom he curses out with unwarranted disdain.
Cash finds that masculinity goes with sexual prowess, as in the first shots of him he’s boasting about the size of his penis. The vulgarian’s shirt has an “I f**k on the first date” message on it, which should tell you all you want to know about him. He’s divorced from his abused wife Susan (Elizabeth Reaser), whom he fails to support even though making millions in the cage. She now works as a waitress. Cash re-married and is also abusive to his new wife Jade (Karrueche Tran).
The boxing movie concludes literally with a violent bout between father and son.
I would never think of watching an MMA fight, nor would I ever want to see this ugly family drama again, nor would I care to ink up my body as the film’s star does. But aside from all its insensitive rough-house stuff, Sarkisov shows at times he can do some limited drama, even though in this film I couldn’t invest myself emotionally in such a callow character he briefly touches base with his inner core.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2020 GRADE: C+