Critics are constantly beset by cries that “you guys hate movies!” Here’s a dirty secret: Most of us actually love movies. So much so, in fact, that we’ll go into a film that sounds slightly generic—say, the story of an Oklahoma kid (Graye) chasing high-school wrestling glory—and hold out hope that something, anything, will surprise or reward us. Mel Damski’s rote take-it-to-the-mat drama, however, doesn’t make that goal easy. There’s exactly one shot—our hero, Cal, shadow-grappling to Puccini—that qualifies as unique or resonant. Other than that, it’s as if the filmmakers swallowed the sports-movie handbook and regurgitated every clich in half-digested form.
We know that Cal’s estranged, mountainous brother (Cena) will eventually teach his molehill of a sibling how to access the warrior within. (Like Chekhov said, if you put a reverse-cradle hold on the mantelpiece in Act I...) We know that the training montages will be scored to either pump-you-up hip-hop or Midwestern anthem rock. (Wait, how about both?) We know that both Cal’s mother (Clarkson) and Danny Glover’s kind old black gentleman will eventually beam with pride. The only thing that remains a mystery is why anyone thinks they can pass off a poorly made, predictable-to-a-fault movie as inspiring entertainment. Quality is the ultimate uplift, people. Anything less is just a scam and a forfeit.—David Fear
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