Director Nick Sarkisov’s Embattled is a punchy sports drama that delivers blow after blow. Stephen Dorff is fantastic as the MMA fighter who enters the ring to take on his 18 year-old son. Dorff delivers maximum impact in the fight scenes and the dramatics, creating a fully-rounded and wholly flawed character. Simply put – Dorff delivers a powerful performance – the best of his career.
Dorff is Cash, a tough as nails fighter (loosely based on Conor McGregor) who ends up battling his eldest son Jett (Darren Mann) in the ring. Jett needs money to look after his younger brother, Quinn (Colin McKenna) who has Williams Syndrome. The millionaire fighter has almost totally shut Quinn out of his life and refuses to give money to help him or his mother (Elizabeth Reaser). They’re on the poverty line and Jett does the only thing he knows to do in order to help – fight.
Embattled is a father-son drama which features some explosive emotional fireworks from its cast – and while it follows some of the usual tropes of the underdog sports movie, there’s a freshness to Sarkisov’s film because of it’s high emotional stakes. Yes, Embattled is an underdog story, but it’s a great one that never feels like it’s plodding over well-worn territory.
Sarkisov has crafted some incredible fight sequences, and you can see the effort that Dorff and Mann have put into their roles. Dorff in particular is in phenomenal shape – impressive for anyone, but more so for a man of 47. You fully believe that he’s capable of delivering the brutal beatings that Cash gives his opponents.
You don’t need to know about (or even enjoy Mixed Martial Arts) to be captivated by Embattled. It’s a film about fathers and sons and morals and beliefs. It’s a well crafted drama which really does pack a hefty punch.