Final Heat Image

Final Heat

By Alan Ng | April 25, 2024

Many would say the greatest stress in any relationship surrounds money. Financial pressure is the true test of whether a couple or family can make it on the other side. In Jeremy Mitchell’s feature, Final Heat, a couple is tested by fire in the waning days of their small business.

Cam (Brad Benedict) and Laney (Molly Cerne) run a fitness gym called The Hollywood Box. They know the business only has months to survive, and their final shot to keep the business open is to win a nationwide fitness competition. If they win, The Hollywood Box will not only stay open but be the subject of a nationwide reality show.

Forming a team is not going to be easy. Unlike the other gyms, they are unable to pay their players. As members drop out, Cam is going to have to compete, which causes a conflict of interest and descent within the ranks. In the end, Coach Cam has a rag-tag team of players, and Laney is there for support and her marketing expertise to get the public behind their adventure.

The greatest conflict amongst the team comes from Kemp (Jeremy Mitchell). Kemp was in tight with Cam, Laney, and Cam’s brother, who died on Kemp’s watch. When Cam’s brother passed, Kemp went MIA, leaving Cam and Laney to fend for themselves. Knowing that the team needed a ringer, Laney recruited Kemp against her better judgment, as Kemp may still have feelings for Laney.

“…their final shot to keep the business open is to win a nationwide fitness competition.”

As much as Final Heat is essentially a small-town sports tale, it really is a hard-hitting, emotional drama and a love triangle story between Cam, Laney, and Kemp. Add the pressure of keeping their business afloat, winning an almost impossible competition, the dealing with a very tragic past, Final Heat gets hard-hitting fast.

The pressure pushes each of our characters apart. It all starts innocently as keeping secrets is meant to protect Cam and Laney from stressing out, but then those secrets start weakening the emotional foundation of their relationship. As secrets do, they are always revealed at the worst possible moment, and then the claws come out, and it’s personal.

The only weakness in Final Heat is the DIY nature of the production. Writer/director Mitchell has a tight script but doesn’t have the big Hollywood production team to make it look “cinematic.” It’s guerilla filmmaking from the get-go.

The story is told like a hybrid reality show. It’s a traditional narrative intercut with footage from the potential reality show with diary room interviews in black-and-white. Much of this allows for our characters to be honest, camera honest, and brutally honest. I’m not the biggest fan of fake reality shows, but Mitchell’s script has a good balance of scripted story and authentic dialogue. Benedict, Cerne, and Mitchell give it all for their very emotional performances.

The best part is the film is gritty and dark at times. There are no pulled punches when it comes to the history of our trio of heroes. Real life isn’t a fairy tale. Yet, at the same time, it’s human nature to fight to survive. Final Heat tells a story that doesn’t quite walk down the same path as past films and keeps audiences off balance in good ways.

Final Heat (2024)

Directed and Written: Jeremy Mitchell

Starring: Brad Benedict, Molly Cerne, Jeremy Mitchell, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Final Heat Image

"…a good balance of scripted story and authentic dialogue."

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