REVIEW: Brutal (2014)

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2014, Dormant Lion Entertainment/Irma’s Place Production

Director:
Donald Lawrence Flaherty
Producers:
Morgan Benoit
Donald Lawrence Flaherty
Derek Griffith
Mario Kenyon
Paraag Lal
Li Ming Zhi
David Mattey
Sally Shepard
Writer:
Donald Lawrence Flaherty
Cinematography:
Jim Timperman
Editing:
David Mattey

Cast:
Morgan Benoit (Trevor O’Hara)
Jeff Hatch (Derrick Bauer)
David Mattey (Detective Warren)
Renata Green-Garber (Katherine O’Hara)
Stacy Jorgensen (Candy)
Mario Kenyon (Edward Bauer)
Christina Brooks (Kara)
Andrew Flaherty (Young Trevor)
Daniel Headecker (Detective Follenweider)

Part science fiction, part psychological thriller, and part mixed martial arts film, Donald Lawrence Flaherty’s feature film may seem like just one thing, but it is more than what one would possibly think.

Fifteen years ago, teenager Trevor O’Hara has been abducted by an alien presence with no one ever knowing. The once quiet and somewhat rebellious teen has become a violent fighter. However, he is about to meet his match in Derrick Bauer, an ambulance-chasing attorney who also has been abducted. As the two constantly engage in a series of brutal fights, they awaken each day unscathed as the alien force prepares for them to fight each night.

As Derrick proves himself to become the more powerful of the duo, Trevor begins to question himself as to if he will ever be able to go back home. Meanwhile, with each win, Derrick gets more and more rewards while the once rewarding Trevor begins to feel the real pain from the fights against Derrick. Back on Earth, Trevor’s mother Katherine has constantly been looking for Trevor while Derrick’s brother Edward, who has been estranged due to personal issues, begins to take advantage of his brother’s disappearance. As Derrick finally realizes why he and Trevor are forced to fight each night, he learns the true agenda of the aliens, but can he get through to both the aliens and Trevor before it’s too late?

When this film was first announced, it seemed like a strange idea. Two men abducted by aliens are forced to fight each other to the point of nearly killing each other. It may seem somewhat absurd, but that’s far from what writer-director Donald Lawrence Flaherty has brought to the table. What he brings is a “psychological sci-fi MMA film” that is more than just a fight film, but a film that taps into the human psyche as to what can make a person tick. The aliens here, represented by just a green-lighted circular shape that resembles a camera lens, also have that in mind and sees how much pain one can take and the psychological effects that pain can cause one person.

The film is driven by the lead performances of Morgan Benoit and Jeff Hatch as the two combatants Trevor and Derrick. As Trevor, Benoit displays himself as not just a fighter, but because of the fact he was kidnapped as a teen, has that teenager mentality that if he can be a good boy, perhaps he will get rewarded, in this case, by going home. Hatch, a former football player for the New York Giants, does quite well as Derrick, who goes through the most change, going from wondering why he is there to enjoying the fruits of victory to ultimately coming through the realization and agenda of the aliens when during one of their encounters, Trevor reveals the harsh truth.

The supporting cast does quiet well. Renata Green-Gaber does well as Katherine, who even after fifteen years, refuses to believe her son is dead and is relentless on finding her son. David Mattey, who is considered a jack-of-all-trades (he edited, supervised the VFX, and produced this film) does well as the veteran detective on Trevor’s case and while he first sees Katherine as someone who has no hope, he ultimately respects her for her relentless pursuit. As for Mario Kenyon, he does well as Edward, Derrick’s estranged and greedy brother who is somewhat brainwashed by his gold-digging girlfriend but can’t help but have a very guilty conscience for the estrangement. Stacy Jorgensen doesn’t offer much as Candy, a stripper who Derrick falls for and with having an alien take the form of Candy, she is just there to pretty much serve as a love slave for him.

The mixed martial arts fights prove to be an essential part of the film. One would think that after the injuries they sustain, Trevor and Derrick will just fall. However, as mentioned, after each fight, they are usually healed the next day only to be forced to fight again and again. There is a lot of blood and at times, very brutal moves as the title indicates. Some of the VFX may not be realistic, but they prove a point in justifying how far one is willing to go when they can’t take it anymore and have no other choice but to fight. The techniques are what one would expect in MMA and kudos goes to stunt coordinator Colin Follenweider and fight choreographer Chris Torres for the brutal nature of the fights.

Brutal may be seen by many as just a mindless fight fest with no point. However, it is more about the human psyche and how far one is willing to go with an ultimate lesson learned in place. Morgan Benoit and Jeff Hatch are the driving forces of the film and they do quite a good job.

WFG RATING: B+

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