Director: Jeff Unay.
Starring. Joe Carman, Callie Carman, Mia Carman, Delanee Carman, Kira Carman, Norinda Reed, Clayton Hoy, Vernon Beach. USA. 1h 21m.
I have to admit that I didn’t really research this movie, and just assumed it was the Wrestler of the MMA universe, just a movie filmed in a documentary style about a fighter returning to regain some glory, but it wasn’t really until a candid scene where the protagonist Joe Carman is arguing with his father, that I realised… these people really aren’t’ acting and shit just got real!
So this awkward and insightful movie follows Joe, who allows cameras film his return to glory, the blue collar worker who breaks his promise to his family and begins his training to get back into the ring and unleash his unique brand of MMA destruction, the only problem is that Joe is 40 and is not only risking his health and life, he’s risking everything for a sport that has moved on without him. One scene sums it up, Joe is in the parking lot, turning a huge tire over and being spotted by a guy as he manhandles the rubber, “How old are you, 24? “Joe responds wistfully, “Oh I wish I was 24 again“.
Joe wishes a lot of things and is pretty determined though, the camera follows his grueling regime as he trains, bulks, shreds, trains some, but his aged body doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with his vibrant mind. He’s a father of 4 and on his second marriage. Daily he slugs out his existence working in the boiler room for the Seattle Ferry Service but he truly lies to fight.
Despite my initial thoughts, The Cage Fighter is very much a documentary directed by Jeff Unay, who has a background of working on post-production effects for blockbusters like King Kong (2005) and Avatar (2009). But who’d have thunk he could also produce a brisk and concise fly on the wall movie with such masterful storytelling and compelling structure. in a simple scene of Joe making pancakes for his daughters, is edited with such style, but it does help that Joe is a very likeable guy and the girls are pretty adorable. But the washed up boxer story is almost as old as cinema itself, and there are a few characters which seem to have fallen straight out of the book of stereotypes.
Slowly through his perseverance Joe gets back into the sport, he gets his redeeming fights but that hunger burns in him and at one point he shouts out “one more fight”
It’s a grueling and somewhat poetic piece with some explosive scenes, mostly with Joe’s family who seem to fight more brutally than the man but luckily only with words, his father is a particularly harsh douchebag thriving on negativity. But Joe is a pretty cool cat who stays in his groove. at time you can see the fire within the man, he really wants this, but also he is mindful of his family’s wishes for him to be safe and not fight. The mystery as to why fighters can’t give up the game isn’t really answered, i don’t think it can be fully understood by normies, but it seems a secret shrouded in some mystery even to the men experiencing the drive. The movie ends on this unanswered question but sadly things don’t really seem to be in Joes favour for finding glory again.
R – The Wrestler (2008), The Fighter (2010), Rocky (1976)
L – Fighting Profiles