UK Release Date: 7th May 2018
Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: Matthew Berkowitz
Writer: Matthew Berkowitz, Justin Steele
Starring: Thomas Q Jones, Denise Richards, Chuck Liddell, Isaach De Bankolé, Bruce Davison, Khalilah Joi
Synopsis: An MMA fighter achieves success when a video of him beating a champion goes viral, but he’s subsequently accused of killing a journalist.
Just over halfway through the dismal MMA-themed thriller A Violent Man, the movie’s protagonist – played by former NFL running back Thomas Q Jones – announces that he’s going to “clear my head”. He ends up in a strip club and, soon after arriving, he is slightly provoked by a man and makes mincemeat of his face with a brick. It’s a shocking moment of mostly unexplained violence in a movie that never once has a coherent grip on its characters, who all seem to act according to plot rather than personality.
Jones plays mild-mannered MMA fighter Ty, who has aspirations of reaching the top of the sport. Sleazy big fight manager Ben Green (Bruce Davison) brings his client Marco ‘Undefeatable’ Reign (Chuck Liddell) to the gym where Ty trains and, after a short sparring match, Ty forces the champion to tap out. Ben pays some hush money to keep the young fighter quiet, but a video of his victory goes viral and he brags to MMA journalist Victoria (Denise Richards). The day after their interview turns into a night of passion, Victoria is found dead and Ty is top of the list of suspects.
There’s a certain intrigue to the central mystery of A Violent Man, but it’s a mystery that the film seems to lose interest in at random intervals. It’s clear that writer-director Matthew Berkowitz simply wanted to make a movie based in the world of MMA and devised a loose story to wrap around it. Head-scratching moments happen periodically, whether it’s the bizarre, unexplained forgiveness of Ty’s long-term girlfriend Whitney (Khalilah Joi) or Denise Richards as an incredibly unconvincing journalist who is an “acclaimed MMA reporter” but needs Ty to explain a rear naked choke to her. It’s in these female roles that the movie’s lack of clear characterisation is most obvious.
Much of the weight of A Violent Man falls on to the shoulders of Jones in the leading role. Fortunately, those shoulders are incredibly broad as Jones is built like a jumbo jet full of overfed elephants and has an undeniable physical presence. That’s just about all there is to him, however, and he fails to bring a coherent sense of righteous injustice to a character who, as far as the audience knows, is being accused of a crime he hasn’t committed. He’s also unconvincing in the fight sequences, which is damning given he spends much of the film working alongside Liddell – a real mixed martial artist.
There are times at which Berkowitz lapses into the kind of unsubtle symbolism you’d expect of a student film, with lighting bathing the bedroom in siren-like red and blue during the sex scene between Jones and Richards. The entire movie feels thrown together into what a film ought to look like, rather than a depiction of a story the filmmaker actually feels confident in telling. Even the twist ending, which might have worked in a more coherent narrative, is an afterthought tossed in to tie up the loose ends.
Just the movie’s trailer on the disc I had for review.
Pop or Poop?
There’s an intriguing story running through A Violent Man, but the execution is desperately incompetent and writer-director Matthew Berkowitz shows a lack of focus in ensuring the story and characters are consistent and coherent throughout the movie. It’s a film set in the world of cage fighting that leaves its audience feeling trapped.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
A Violent Man is available on DVD in the UK from Monday, courtesy of Thunderbird Releasing.