Terms get thrown around a lot, especially the ones that make us sound smarter and more sophisticated. The truth is we don’t always have a firm grasp of its meaning, but uttering the phrase impresses everyone around us. Such is the case with the genre “film noir.” I’ve said it many times and even claimed to perform it as an improv genre. I don’t know what it means. Google has it as “a film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace.” Wikipedia adds, “stylized Hollywood film with cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.” Ok, I’ve been schooled.
From writer/director Matthew Berkowitz comes A Violent Man. His film takes the film noir genre into the world of MMA. Ty (Thomas Q. Jones) is a struggling MMA fighter. As the genre requires, every time something good happens in Ty’s life, something worse is just around the corner.
While working out at his local gym with a fellow fighter, Jameson (John Lewis) and his coach/manager Pete (Isaach De Bankolé), opportunity literally walks in. MMA Champ Marco Reign (Chuck Lidell) enters looking for a sparring partner. Seizing the moment, Ty volunteers. As soon as the bell rings, Ty has a submission hold locked in on Marco, who immediately taps out. Ty’s got skills. Fortunately for Ty and the film’s plot, this unbelievable moment was caught on Jameson’s cellphone camera.
This quick win has Ty feeling confident that he’s ready for the next level…hell, ready for the champ. People can dream, but then there’s reality. At home is Ty’s girlfriend, Whitney (Khalilah Joi), who struggles with Ty to make ends meet. She works too hard for the man, she wishes would get a “real” job.
“…he says he’s innocent, denies the affair and gets his girlfriend to be his alibi…”
Now’s the time and Ty needs to jumpstart his MMA career by shooting off an e-mail to sports reporter Victory (Denise Richards) saying that he has proof he beat the champ. They agree to meet later that night at a local bar.
Ty is soon approached by Marco’s manager Benjamin Green (Bruce Davison), who is also a slimy MMA executive with influence. Green likes Ty’s future potential and offers to take him under his wing. Ty says no out of loyalty to his current manager, Pete. Green accepts the decision and give Ty $10,000 to destroy the video of him and Marco, but not without the warning “if you don’t work for me, you’re against me.”
Later that night, Ty meets up with Victoria and drops that he beat Marco at the gym. Intrigued by the news, Ty winds up in Victoria’s bed for a playfully violent session of love-making. Ty leaves the late night tryst feeling on top of the world. Then morning comes.
Victoria is found choked-to-death on her bed. The tough, but by-the-book detective Angela (Felisha Terrell) and her street-smart partner Beckett (Jon Sklaroff) make it clear that Ty is the prime suspect. Not wanting to lose focus, he says he’s innocent, denies the affair and gets Whitney to be his alibi.
Eager to provide stable income, but ready to become a name in the world of MMA, Ty pushes hard to make a name for himself. Ty starts taking risks like taking part in an illegal street fight. Stands up for himself when his reputation is mocked. Both incidences show Ty’s dark side. his ever-growing uncontrollable temper. The ultimately lead to an underground, unsanctioned, PPV match with Marco Reign.
A Violent Man is the story of a man with the potential to be the best, but never able to reach his potential because of outside forces but more so because of himself. It’s one thing to be held back because of a system designed to hold you back, but it’s another when you sabotage your own path.
“…a testament to how filmmakers can tell big stories with small budgets.”
Matthew Berkowitz present a film that is decided film noir with a hard-to-not-to-notice streak of bad luck coming at Ty from all sides. Every scene serves a forewarning that things are not going to get better. Just when it looks like he’ll get a break, the break breaks–the very definition of noir.
It’s shot beautifully with the right tone and lighting expected in a noir. A great deal of attention was also placed the MMA fighting as well. Clearly, Berkowitz knew what he was doing. It’s a testament to how filmmakers can tell big stories with small budgets.
A Violent Man boasts a strong cast of character actors in Bruce Davison and Denise Richards. Even stronger is the film’s lead Thomas Q. Jones. He’s believable and effectively carries the entire film. The dialogue is exceptional and feels real, that is when it’s not foreshadowing doom.
It makes me wonder how much better Berkowitz’s film would have been if it were a straight drama. Cut to the bare bones; his story has a solid story structure about a good man, the underdog, with uncontrolled anger. By not going over-the-top to meet the requirements of the noir genre, Berkowitz’s film may have been able to make a stronger connection with his audience.
A Violent Man is a good film with a good cast and story. Fans of film noir are going to appreciate the final product.
A Violent Man (2018) Directed by Matthew Berkowitz. Written by Matthew Berkowitz and Justin Steele. Starring Thomas Q. Jones, Khalilah Joi, Isaach De Bankolé, Bruce Davison, Denise Richards, Felisha Terrell, Jon Sklaroff, Chuck Liddell.
7 out of 10 stars