Ahh… cage-fighting. That glorious dance of masculinity where men pitch their instinctual desire to maim and control against their need to stay out of jail, win a girl’s approval and establish themselves as stable family men.
Drawn into the primitive ritual by events out of his control, Beatdown’s Brandon unwittingly finds himself at the centre of this brutal place of fisticuffs and threats. At 21 and caught between emotive urges and responsibility, Brandon is negotiating what it means to be a man.
Yet while the themes are there, this is a film delivered with a overwhelming absence of style or authenticity. Surprisingly, as the characters wreathe around in pain, it is easy to envy the short-lived nature of their suffering. In contrast, forced to endure one and a half hours of the most unprofessional and tedious cinematography known to man, the audience are the real victims. Beatdown didn’t come with a press release, but if it did it would have been in the form of a pint of absinthe and a bullet, the only absolution for a picture this bad.
By choosing cage-fighting as a theme, the producers didn’t do themselves any immediate favours. But this is a film about a disgustingly vulgar activity that does little to inject any degree of creativity into its content. Perhaps the film’s only redeeming feature is the name of its lead actor as Rudy Youngblood’s appellation works to supplement any characterisation with far more depth than his poor acting.
The inclusion of the slightly less appropriately named Michael Bisping is certainly interesting, if not entirely successful. The Lancashire-based professional middleweight clearly can’t act, leaving a residue of authenticity over the over-cooked film. If this was the style of the whole feature, Beatdown would perhaps come across as a refreshingly gritty production, borrowing much from the medium of documentary. However, as the naturally laddish Bisping is placed in the ring with imperfect actors, the mediocrity of the rest of the cast shines through and abandons the film in a bland middle-ground between convincing factual representation and watchable, entertaining movie.
Unfortunately, when it comes to representing the emotional counterbalance to this brutality, the film fairs no better. There are more overacted bromances than a changing-room scene in a teen movie and verbal interactions between men are inevitably delivered with a forced intensity. Paradoxically, the result of this over-emphasis is that even emotional relationships become primitive struggles for control. Instead of portraying convincing allegiances rooted in sensitivity, the film relies on tired discussions copied-and-pasted from any clichéd daytime drama as the men acknowledge that ‘it’s not gonna be easy’, yet promise to ‘learn’ and ‘try’.
Thanks to a scriptwriter who is ultimately distanced from reality and who presumably lives in a house wallpapered in Clinton cards, Brandon gets the nice girl. If, like me, you were too mesmerised by the couple’s devastatingly well-coordinated shirts to notice how their relationship developed, don’t worry. A cheeky little montage which alternates between scenes where the couple play with a – previously unseen – dog and Brandon’s work-out sessions certainly fills in all the gaps and allows for efficient plot development with the depth of a Twitter post.
With a disturbingly animalistic subject, primitive acting, elementary filming and a plot that never quite sees evolution, Beatdown is set to leave its viewers downbeat.
first published on battleroyalewithcheese.com