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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 25, 2021



‘EMBATTLED’ is an action-drama on Amazon Prime about a mixed martial arts fighter, Cash Boykins (Stephen Dorff), the reigning lightweight and welterweight WFA champion. 

The movie opens with him winning in another brutal match. With him on the trip to his fight is his 18-year old son, Jett (Darren Mann), who he is training to follow in his footsteps as a mixed martial arts champion. 

It becomes quickly obvious that father and son are so different from each other. Cash is an arrogant homophobic macho and over-the-top male chauvinist with a foul mouth. 

We see him asking his son about the size of his manhood since for him, sexual promiscuity is the true meaning of being masculine. 

In the plane taking back to their home in Birmingham, Alabama, he even urges his son to have sex with a pretty flight attendant. 

It’s revealed later that Cash has long been separated from his mother and, as a boy, Jett had often experienced being verbally and physically abused by his toxic father. 

It’s quickly established that Cash is the villain in their relationship as Jett is so clean and wholesome compared to him. 

He even intervenes with what songs Jett should listen to and orders his son to listen to listen to heavy metal band music rather than to the soft romantic songs the boy prefers. 

When Jett refuses to do this, Cash punches him, shocking the people around them. 

Jett is the eldest son of Cash with his mom Susan (Elizabeth Reaser), who was a victim of domestic violence and now works as a waitress. 

They have another son, Quinn (Colin McKenna), who has a genetic disorder characterized by mental deficiency. 

Cash treats the boy with much disdain, calling him insultingly as a ‘retard’, obviously wishing he’s not his son. Although he’s very rich, he refuses to extend any help to his original family.

Cash has a new wife, Jade (Karrueche Tran), a black girl, and they have their own son, a little boy named Kingston (Jakari Fraser). 

In contrast to Jett and his mom and brother who live a very modest life, Cash’s new family lives in a lavish, luxurious home.

The film has other subplots, like Jett’s love interest in school, Keaton (Ava Capri), and the romance he is trying to cultivate with his mom and a teacher (Donald Faison). 

But these forays are actually unnecessary and can be edited out without damaging the main story which is about the traumatic experiences Jett had with Cash that he tries to suppress but continue to haunt him, understandably leading to violence. 

The conflict between father and son escalates when a video showing Cash cruelly hitting his son becomes viral. Promoters then thought of a bout where father and son face each other in a personal match on the octagon ring. 

Jett trains with Claude (Said Taghmaoui), the only fighter who succeeded in defeating Cash. The movie tries to be a thrilling fight brawler and also a family drama about a estranged father and son. 

If you want to experience feel good emotions in the movies you watch, this is not it because Cash remains to be an abusive and repulsive person in the end. 

As for Jett, apparently, violence does not heal his harsh past with his dad but only begets more violence for him. 

Stephen Dorff delivers great impact playing a very flawed character in both the fight scenes and the emotional ones with his son. 

We remember him starting as a child actor on TV then he played the lead in the 1987 horror flick, “The Gate”, about a boy who finds out that the gate to hell is right in their own backyard. 

As a teenager, he starred in “The Power One” (1992), a boxing film that touches on racial discrimination in South Africa where he co-starred with Morgan Freeman and a very young Daniel Craig. 

He’s always busy doing films and TV shows but he never really hit it big as an actor. 

He now gets his best role in years in “Embattled”. He shows that at 48 and now playing father roles, he remains in good shape, so physically fit, as a tattooed, tough-as-nails fighter and you can believe he can really beat up his adversaries on the ring. 

But he can also still pack a wallop in his compelling performance as a vile anti-hero in the acting scenes.

“Embattled” is not original as we’ve seen underdog stories before, but the stakes here are higher, and more emotional, since the opponents who aim to demolish each other on the ring are father and son. 

The fight scenes are quite well crafted and you will appreciate the efforts that Dorff and his son invest in their respective roles and the movie itself packs a hefty punch. Although we wish it had a more palatable ending and there’s an arc of redemption for Dorff’s character.