8.5/10 A film I didn’t know anything about outside of the trailer, “Embattled” has become one of the most surprisingly great films of 2020 for me. The story of an abusive MMA father, his son who he has basically forced to follow in his footsteps, his ex-wife and his other son his is autistic, “Embattled” is primarily a family/relationship drama and an MMA fight film second. Stephen Dorff has had a career boost recently and continues picking great, challenging roles. I recently watched him in the third season of “True Detective” and to see his dedication here is encouraging and makes me hope he gets even bigger and better roles moving forward since he continues to prove himself. He got into fantastic shape for the film (all the more impressive since he is pushing 50 years old) and does a great job at playing a total jerk in the film. This is the first time I have seen Darren Mann, who plays his son, act in a film and he similarly put in hard work to deliver a powerful performance both physically and emotionally. The entire cast is solid and since the film deals with abuse, autism, violence, divorce, etc. there are a lot of emotional elements at play that all feel authentic and genuine, which goes to the strength of David McKenna’s tight script. The direction is also extremely well handled as director Nick Sarkisov maintains precise control, especially during the film’s climactic MMA fight. The fight choreography and fantastic combination of cinematography and editing during that final fight truly is a sight to behold. The intensity of the fight had my stomach in knots as I sat on the edge of my seat. The score was subtle but appropriate and well done while giving off some Clint Mansell vibes. Mann’s character has a toxic relationship with his father but wants to make it in MMA like his old man while also struggling to help his autistic brother as his mother works constantly to provide for them all. The subplots involving the mom and even Mann’s cute female friend all work and have proper time for development. Coming in at just under two hours, the film takes its time establishing and developing characters, showing natural exposition via flashbacks and ends on a very realistic note, which I loved. The only minor flaws were that other films have covered some of the same type of subject matter before so this isn’t really breaking any new ground and some mild clichés do pop up. None of that will hinder your viewing experience as this is definitely a film worth watching. It has its emotional ups and downs but the film will definitely make you feel something while watching it. Whether you are into MMA or not, this is a film worth going a few rounds with and one of the most pleasurable surprises of 2020.

#ColdHardCash / #EmbattledCry / #MMAMyMomsAbuser / #StrikeFatherStrikeSon / #FightsOfPassage / #MightyDorffinPowerDangers  

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