Harder They Fall (2005)

hardertheyfall

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Two kickboxers from opposite sides of Miami are the highlight of this independent martial arts drama, well shot and directed by Lee Cipolla.

Max Anderson is a kickboxing hopeful who comes from the rich side of Miami, with his mother always supporting him yet sometimes berating him for sometimes not working hard enough. While Max longs to be just a college student, he is expected to perform at the top of his game at all times. Jesus Velez is a troublemaker who constantly has run-in with the cops and is always berated by his sister Maria and grandmother. Jesus works at the local car shop and one night changes his life forever, when he earns some extra money by fighting in the streets.

When Jesus’ first opponent sees how good Jesus is, he offers to give him a chance to really show his skills the right way. Jesus is introduced to fight promoter Julius Prince. At first reluctant, Julius gives Jesus a match and is impressed with his style of fighting. When Julius offers Jesus a chance to take on his star fighter, Max, he is given the chance to finally start straightening up. However, during their fight, Max unknowingly resorts to using a dirty tactic to defeat Jesus. However, when Max realizes what has happened, he decides to finally do the right thing and to begin, he asks for a rematch with Jesus.

From director Lee Cipolla comes this pretty good dramatic film about the lives of two fighters from opposite sides of the tracks. The first half of the film poses a juxtaposition of the two fighters, played well by Josh Lamboy and Johnny Vieira. Lamboy’s Jesus is from the rough side of the tracks, always getting into trouble and getting harassed by his sister and grandmother. He has a job at a car shop, but hopes for something more and eventually sees his fighting skills as a way to finally make something of himself.

As for Vieira’s Max, he is more like someone who is typical of a stereotype. While he is from a rich family, he feels he doesn’t have it all. He is practically in a forced relationship with a pompous woman. He is expected to always perform at the top of his game by both his mother and trainer, who is obvious there not to support Max as more to cash in on Max’s local fame as a potential champion. It goes as far as forcing Max to do something he learns about too late in the ring. While Jesus finally sees himself learning through the ropes, it is Max’s discovery of what had happened that prompts him to finally start speaking and standing up for himself.

The drama and the in-ring action is complemented nicely. Despite just a few flaws during the climactic bout between Max and Jesus, the generalization of the fight scenes are well-edited. There is even a nice chase scene between Max and Jesus that occurs when Jesus confronts Max about what had happened in their first fight, resulting in Jesus stealing Max’s wallet. There is just a little bit of parkour mixed in but overall, a nicely shot chase scene that results in Jesus showing he is not a completely bad guy like many want to believe.

Harder They Fall is a worthy independent film filled with emotion, nice action for what they had, and a great story about two fighters who despite settling their differences in the ring, learn to finally stand up for themselves and eventually become better men in and out of the ring. Worth a rental.

A Future Films Production in association with the S.A.F.E. Foundation. Director: Lee Cipolla. Producers: Rona Freeman and Lee Cipolla. Writers: Warren Christophell, A.J. Cipolla, and Lee Cipolla. Cinematography: Dan Lauchaire. Editing: Lee Cipolla and Dan Lauchaire.

Cast: Joshua Lamboy, Johnny Vieira, Rona Freeman, David Perez-Ribada, Jeremy Mitchell, Estefania Crespo, Juana Fuentes, Andre L. Gainey, Valentina Izarra, Mirtha Michelle, Leah Page, Gerard Maccioli.

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