Perhaps the highest compliment you can give a movie, is that when it's over, you weren't ready for it to end.
That was definitely the case for me, after watching Stephen Dorff's new film; Embattled.
I don't know that I've ever finished watching a movie, and my first thought was; 'those characters are so interesting and the story lines still have so much more to tell, that this should become a tv series'.
But that's what I was thinking after this film.
I first became a fan of Stephen Dorff's after seeing his film: The Power of One.
It's a beautiful film that taught me the horrors of Apartheid at a young age and introduced me greats like Morgan Freeman, Sir John Gielgud, Armin-Mueller Stahl and director John G. Avildsen.
The latter won an Academy Award for a little movie called, Rocky.
This new movie is not Rocky. Quite the opposite. You could nickname it: Conor. As in Conor McGregor. The abusive, profane, face of the UFC.
This movie centers around a Conor-like figure, played by Dorff, in a fictionalized version of the UFC.
Dorff's character, Cash, is violent and profane. He's also homophobic, racist, sexist, abusive, a drunk, a wife-beater, a child-abuser, and an all around horrific human being.
Dorff plays him perfectly.
You fear him, you sense that at any moment his hair-pin temper will explode. And it often does.
Cash is the king of MMA, but he's also a father to 3 boys. 2 from his first marriage, to a woman (played by Elizabeth Reaser) who he abused. The oldest son, Jett is beautifully played by Darren Mann. His middle son, Quinn, is wonderfully embodied by Colin McKenna (the son of the film's writer, David McKenna). Colin, like his character, has special needs.
As a cousin and an uncle to special needs young women, parts of this movie really broke my heart. Colin's character is so sweet and smart, and worthy of love and respect. So it is all the more infuriating to see the abuse, both physical and verbal he endures from his own father.
Cash is not worthy of such a son.
The way Jett cares for his little brother, is beyond moving. There is a scene between Jett and his mom, talking about Quinn, that will resonate with every family that has a special needs child.
No matter the adversity thrown at him, Jett never loses his heart. He is a fighter in the cage, but a lover of people outside of it.
He did not learn that from his father. Dorff's character, Cash, embodies all that is gross about MMA. The blood, the violence, the seeming lack of any concern about other people. The film also explores the willingness to exploit any situation, even if it involves your own family, just to make a buck.
If you're an MMA fan, you'll enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse into what the life of a fighter might be like.
But, if you're just looking for a powerful story about family, with some beautifully realized characters, there's something in Embattled for you too.
Embattled is playing in some theaters and is available on VOD starting November 20th.