Well, this film was not what I was expecting - and that's a good thing.
Firstly, outstanding casting and performances, especially Darren Mann, and, I'd say an Oscar worthy performance by Stephen Dorff who channeled his inner Conor McGregor, and a drunk deadbeat father and ex, like a champ.
At the start, I was a little lost in the story and it's characters. But then came to realize that even without the MMA storyline, this would've still been an outstanding film about a single mom due to an abusive past relationship, raising her kids on her own - one being in the autistic spectrum. Then add the story of her eldest son who's been manifesting the abusive past relationship with his father. Now how do we mix in some action into this story MMA style? Behold, Embattled.
This is writer David McKenna's only 11th writing credit, and he nailed it like a seasoned screenwriter. This film is a different kind of fighter story, one where the consequences of the fight are more important than the win-loss records of its fighters. It's an unforgettable family dynamics drama, that merely uses MMA as a jumping off point to far more interesting realms about emotional catharsis, both for the characters and for the viewer. The emotional heft of this story makes this one of the best sports films I've seen in a long time.
The cinematography was great and the score very fitting. The 117 min runtime felt a little long with the sometimes slow pacing, and I felt there were a little too many slow-mo shots. But considering this is amateur director Nick Sarkisov's 2nd ever dabble in filmmaking as producer and director, I'm going to be forgiving, because his directing otherwise, was on par with seasoned filmmakers, and for that, mad props and respect.
I can finally say during these times of isolation, this is a must-see film, and I will certainly be watching it again. It's a well deserved 9/10 from me. To see my review and rating system, or more of my 1000+ reviews, simply click on my username.