REVIEW: The Fight Within (2016)

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2016, New Life Cinema/GNV Releasing

Director:
Michael Gordon
Producers:
Jim Davis
Geno Taylor
Writer:
Jim Davis
Cinematography:
D.J. Dittenhoefer
Editing:
Wynton Payne

Cast:
John Major Davis (Logan Chandler)
Leila Symington (Emma Jones)
Matt Leddo (Hayden Dressler)
Mike Taylor (Mason Chandler)
Wesley Williams (The Old Man)
Dan Severn (Rich Chandler)

A former MMA fighter seeks redemption within himself through faith in this inspiring drama.

Two years ago, Logan Chandler was on the verge of becoming of the best young mixed martial artists until an incident with his father caused his dad to die of a heart attack. Feeling responsible for his father’s heart attack, Logan had given up on becoming a professional and just trains at the family gym, now run by older brother Mason. However, despite giving up fighting, Logan finds a problem in local bad boy Hayden Dressler, who is the current middleweight champion.

Dressler lost to Logan two years ago and wants a rematch. Constantly mocking him in an effort to get that rematch, Logan refuses to fight. However, his left slowly gets better when he meets Emma, a fellow college student who helps Logan by teaching him about God and his faith. Ever the skeptic, Logan also finds support in a local homeless man he helps out on occasion. Logan begins to find faith within himself but the unhinged Hayden goes to extreme measures to force Logan to face him at an upcoming competition where the winner will receive $10,000. Will Logan find the strength within himself along with the power of God to do the right thing and learn his destiny?

As of late, faith-based films have been popping up and some have been pretty good and others, not so great. To combine faith-based drama with mixed martial arts may be something unheard of, but surprisingly, this film actually works quite well. If you are expecting flat out action scenes with bloody chaos, turn elsewhere because this one actually has a viable story about a young former fighter who goes on a road of redemption both in and out of the cage.

Lead actor John Major Davis does quite well in the role of the troubled Logan, who feels complete guilt for his father’s death to the point where it affects practically almost every aspect of his life. However, he does prove he is not completely a bad person as we see him in his first interaction with one of his two spiritual mentors, a homeless man who is well played by Wesley Williams. The Old Man, as he is called, can be said to be a guardian angel to Logan, giving him advice at just the right moments necessary and even tells him about what it is like to fight. Leila Symington provides very good support in the role of Emma, who not only becomes Logan’s girlfriend but his second spiritual mentor as she helps him see the plan God has for everyone. Their love story is done in such a cute puppy love sort of way that it actually is quite suitable and done nicely for this film.

The film can be said to have somewhat of an anti-bullying aspect as well as our film’s antagonist, Hayden Dressler, is played in such a ruthless manner by Matt Leddo. If you thought The Martial Arts Kid’s Bo Whitlaw is the epitome of bullying, Hayden is just as bad or can be said to be even worse. He has his little clique who don’t do much but just laugh when Hayden is at his ruthless and Hayden threatens not only Logan but other trainees as well, all because he wants a rematch and plays mind games to get his way. MMA legend Dan “The Beast” Severn makes the most of his flashback roles in the role of the ill-fated father of our hero while Mike Taylor provides a sense of conflict between business and personal in his role of Logan’s older brother Mason, who gets the brunt of Logan’s answer because of his guilt.

As mentioned, this is a drama that has a few MMA fight sequences in the film, and for an indie film of this caliber, the MMA scenes are pretty well done. There are lots of grappling used but the strikes work well for the most part. Co-star Taylor served as the film’s fight choreographer and even has himself in what his character calls “brotherly love” when he confronts Logan about an incident that nearly exiles him from the family gym due to our bully’s big mouth. The third act, in which Logan trains and has his big fight, is not quite bad. In fact, they are quite decent but let’s not forget, the action is not the focus of the film, but rather the story of the film about redemption.

The Fight Within is an inspiring tale of redemption of a former mixed martial artist who seeks to find himself and get over everything to prepare for the fight of his life. Definitely worth taking a look more for the story, but the fights and training are not that bad either.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD

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