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By Lorry Kikta | January 27, 2021

Nick Sasso’s debut feature, Haymaker, is incredibly ambitious in scope and subject matter. Firstly, the film takes place in at least five countries. Secondly, it somehow makes what could be your average martial arts/boxing story into a tale about trans lives and respect for them. Neither of these feats would be easy singularly, and together, it’s very impressive to see.

Sasso plays Nick, a retired Muy Thai fighter who is now a bouncer at a night club. In the beginning, we see Nick at work, and then we see an enigmatic performer on stage. While Nomi (Nomi Ruiz) is singing, a rather creepy looking gentleman lurches towards the stage, sending her backstage. Then, by the grace of good timing, Nick hears the creep in the performer’s dressing room, attempting to rape her. Nick beats the guy to a pulp. Afterward, Nick and Nomi are having drinks at the bar. Nick’s boss, Javier (John Ventimiglia), has to fire him because the creep is a “friend” of the club. So Nomi offers Nick a job as her bodyguard. At first, he is hesitant but ends up taking the gig.

This is where the jet setting begins. Nomi is pretty famous on a worldwide level. Nick goes with her to Los Angeles and disapproves of her drinking and doing drugs. He drags her away from a table where her manager, David (Udo Keir), and a gang of sycophants are hanging around. Nick continues not to be too enthused with Nomi’s partying and decides to split from her to pursue his true passion, Muy Thai. What better place to do this than Thailand?

“…Nomi offers Nick a job as her bodyguard.”

Haymaker is incredibly wholesome. Of course, there’s some cursing and violence, so don’t have your kids watch it. Other than that, the message is sweet. It’s all about being true to yourself and not caring what other people think. It’s about getting back up after you fall, which is one of the hardest things we as humans often have to do. The performances are great, from the leads to supporting roles from Zoe Bell as a fight trainer and D.B. Sweeney as Nick’s brother. Nomi Ruiz plays a star in the movie so believably that I can only hope that she becomes as big of one in reality as she is in the film.

Nick Sasso wrote, directed, stars in, and edited the movie, which must have been a gargantuan feat. There are some gorgeous shots throughout, and the chemistry between Sasso and Ruiz is very organic. Sasso has been in the industry for years, working in visual effects and post-production. He’s also directed several high profile commercials. The inherent flashiness from that kind of work shows through in Haymaker, and it’s perfect because the subject matter is flashy, too.

The most important thing the film does is highlight a trans actress without making the whole thing about how she is trans. There are only a few mentions. Her transness is regarded as normal, which it totally is, and other movies should take a cue from Haymaker on how to tell trans stories. I should also mention that the fight scenes are very cool, especially the training scenes in Thailand. Basically, Haymaker has a little something for everyone, and it’s totally worth the watch. I’m excited to see what Nick Sasso does next.

Haymaker (2021)

Directed and Written: Nick Sasso

Starring: Nomi Ruiz, Nick Sasso, D.B. Sweeney, Udo Kier, John Ventimiglia, Zoe Bell, Kathryn Kates, Veronica Falcon, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

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"…most important thing the film does is highlight a trans actress without making the whole thing about how she is trans."

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