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Year: 2017
Director: Matthew Berkowitz
Stars: Thomas Q. Jones, Isaach de Bankolé, Chuck Liddell, Bruce Davison, Khalilah Joi, Denise Richards, Felisha Terrell, Herb Dean, John Sklaroff, John Lewis, Cheyenne Buchanan, Rico Simonini, Samantha Watkins, Anthony Bonaventura, Stephen Dunlevy
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ty (Thomas Q. Jones) considers himself a pretty good fighter, better than average, maybe even with the potential to be great, but he has not had an opportunity to prove himself so far. That is until his mentor, Pete (Isaach de Bankolé) informs him he has a photo opportunity for him as a local fight manager and promoter, Benjamin Green (Bruce Davison), wants to advertise his biggest star who has a major contest coming up. Therefore the two combatants get in the ring for a mild tussle for the camera, but the star has his pride and fights for real, leading Ty to battle back - and resoundingly beat him.

What this was essentially was a murder mystery, though you would never know it from the first half hour. If, from that title and the MMA background it traded in, you were expecting a martial arts movie, one of those low budget, often direct-to-disc or streaming action flicks that provided unpretentious thrills and good, old fashioned beat 'em up sequences, then you were going to be sorely disappointed, for there was but one such scene in the whole of the first hour, and precious little in that vein in the remaining forty minutes or so, though there was a little more as the pace picked up.

But that pace was, at best, glacial, with director Matthew Berkowitz taking his own sweet time to establish his mystery and have it play out as longwindedly as possible for reasons best known to himself. This was doubly curious as Berkowitz was a film editor, so you would have anticipated him to cut this together with at least some degree of energy as befitting its supposed thriller credentials, yet the way it unfolded was more like a serious drama of one man's descent into a personal Hell that just happened to include a murder accusation. Whether he was guilty or not was a matter left unresolved until the final couple of minutes of story, and then the whole thing simply shuddered to a halt.

Thrills were, therefore, thin on the ground, as there was simply not enough plot to justify the length of time this took to explain itself, as there was barely enough storyline for an episode of television - with commercials. There was nothing wrong with the cast, they all served their roles with the requisite conviction, and included such once-big names (well, relatively - you knew who they were, anyway) as Davison, de Bankolé and, as the murder victim, Denise Richards, playing a sleazy journalist though unfortunately bringing to mind her part in comedy Undercover Brother as the representational white woman Achilles' Heel of black heroes, he who jeopardises a good relationship here with his girlfriend (Khalilah Joi) for the sake of a one-night stand.

There was a peculiar fascination with erotic asphyxiation in the script, as we were given two scenes of both main female characters with Jones' hands around their throats, but not enough for those who actually did have this fetish (probably a good thing, too). At least it featured an atmospheric look in a neo-noir fashion, but the rewards were scant when the experience was akin to wading through treacle to get to your destination, which turned out not to be massively shocking anyway given the faith the film had in its protagonist who nevertheless in many ways was the architect of his own downfall. The subplot about supposed Svengali Green's manipulation of Ty's career that Ty resists was a more promising avenue of narrative that Berkowitz refused to explore to any great results, again, somewhat bafflingly when it would have offered more psychological tension than what he did choose to expand upon. Music by Peter G. Adams.

[Thunderbird's DVD has a trailer as an extra and that's it.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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