Based upon a true story, an aspiring young boxer discovers that his greatest challenger is not anyone he meets in the ring, but the man he sees everyday in the mirror.
Kenneth Castillo’s intriguingly written Counterpunch chronicles the life of Emilio Manrique (Alvaro Orlando), a man who hurdles every obstacle life sends his way. This seems an impossibility considering that, as a small boy, Manrique had already served seven months time in a juvenile correctional facility for knifing his mom’s abusive boyfriend.
Manrique’s dream is to become a Golden Gloves boxer, and to that end he works diligently at the small gym owned by his Uncle Frank (Oscar Torre). But life is unfortunately not made entirely of dreams, and each day the sensitive Manrique must return to the home that he shares with his dog, Mr. T, and an unstable mother (Yennifer Behrens), who seems intent upon destroying both herself and her son.
What’s really so wonderful about Counterpunch, that’s missing from so many narrative films of its ilk, is its exploration of silence. No matter how magnificent a script, it’s not necessary for dialogue to always maintain the upper hand in a movie. Castillo understands this, and leaves lots of down time so that his actors can portray their innermost thoughts, and we can read them in their eyes. This allows us to become part of the story, instead of just viewing the film as spectators.
It seems that the cinematic world is teeming with great films about boxing, ranging from Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954) to Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004). So do we really need another melodramatic saga about the rise and fall of a fighter? In the case of Counterpunch, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” There’s something just a little bit more enticing and universally compelling about Castillo’s non-melodramatic interpretation that makes us feel akin to the bipolar Manrique. In the swiftest 97-minutes conceivable, Kenneth Castillo manages to capture that little something we all strive for and live by, called hope.
Counterpunch is strongly recommended to anyone brave enough to follow their dreams, no matter the odds against them.
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