(director/writer: Graham Phiilips, Parker Phillips; screenwriter: Michael Farris Smith, based on Smith’s book “The Fighter”; cinematographer: David J. Myrick; editor: Ned Thorne; music: Brad Smith; cast: Bella Thorne (Annette), Aaron Eckhart (Jack Boucher), Ritchie Coster (Baron), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Big Momma Sweet), Christopher Winchester (Ern), Mike McColl (Ricky Joe), Virginia Newcomb (Jenny), Derek Russa (Ax), Amanda Saunders (Maryann); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Graham Phiilips, Parker Phillips, Cassian Elves, Cleta Elaine Ellington; Lionsgate; 2023)

It’s a dour character study of a boxer who stumbles through life barely able to function.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The former actor Graham Phillips and his brother Parker Phillips (“The Bygone”) co-direct this in your face dark boxing thriller about a washed-up and brain-damaged bare-knuckle fighter from the Bayou, Jack “the Butcher” Boucher (Aaron Eckhart). He’s in gambling debt to a vicious gangster, Big Momma Sweet (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who uses a branding iron to mark those with a dollar sign who owe her money.

After the boxer is robbed carrying $30,000 of gambling winnings in a carnival and he learns he might also lose his childhood home to foreclosure, the final straw is that he can’t support his rest home living dementia suffering foster lesbian mom (Amanda Saunders). She’s the one he loves so much because she taught him how to fight childhood bullies who picked on him, which saved his life and gave him a career as a boxer (there are flashbacks of those days).

Jack can’t handle these financial problems without dumping fights.

The familiar sports drama of a hard-luck and broken-down boxer entangled with gangsters is co-written by the brothers and Michael Farris Smith, and is based on Smith’s book “The Fighter”.

The contrived but watchable film is stylish thanks to the cinematographer, David J. Myrick, whose colorful visuals are the film’s best asset.

Whether or not you like the film probably depends on how you liked Eckhart as a punch drunk fighter, speaking in an unreal Deep South drawl, appearing in a hunched over posture and walking with a limp. The boxer is also in an unconvincing involvement with the heavily tattooed Annette (Bella Thorne), an exotic dancer for a traveling carnival, who turns out to be his angel and helps him because for some vague reason thinks she might be his daughter.

Supporting players include Ritchie Coster as the seedy carnival operator, Mike McColl as a greedy carny/mechanic and Christopher Winchester as a muscle man for Big Momma.

It’s a dour character study of a boxer who stumbles through life barely able to function or understand what’s happening to him. It takes its sweet time before it reaches its climatic Jack in the ring again money shot. The punchy film, though competently crafted, could have been better served if shortened and made more suspenseful.

REVIEWED ON 11/30/2023  GRADE: B-