Notorious Nick (USA, 2021)

The story of real-life disabled MMA fighter Nick Newell comes to life in this really good biopic that amps up the underdog story.

Nick Newell was born with a partial left arm and was always the target of bullying. He soon finds a friend in Abi Maestre, and the two find they have a lot more in common than they expected. As high schoolers, the two decide to try out for the wrestling team. Nick once again finds himself on the receiving end of bullying and despite improving, when he loses the championship for his team, he decides to give it up and walks out on his coach.

Five years later, Abi and Nick reunite, and Abi shows Nick something new. And that thing is mixed martial arts. Impressed but still reluctant, Nick decides to give it a shot with Abi’s guidance. Nick impresses a local promoter but when Abi gets a spot to join a major amateur promotion, Nick is all for it. However, when Abi dies in a motorcycle accident, Nick is given the chance to prove himself. He turns to his old wrestling coach to help him after apologizing for walking off. After the coach sees the spark in Nick, he decides to train him. Nick soon proves himself as an able-bodied fighter despite his disability. A chance for the championship is set to change the course of his life forever.

Biopics, especially about the underdog sports story, are ones that will gain an audience. From Remember the Titans to Miracle, the story of real heroes who have gone from the ground up to achieve their dreams is the stuff that fans will go for and even inspire them to achieve their own goals. This is the story of Nick Newell, a mixed martial arts fighter who was born with a partial left arm. One would think he would a prosthetic arm, but we see in the opening scene when he is a kid, he gets bullied when a kid takes the arm.

Half of the film focuses on the friendship between Nick and Abi, played from high school to adult respectively by Cody Christian and Cameron Matthews. Abi is the one who attempts to keep motivated in his dream of becoming a wrestler and even works with him to improve his skills. Of course, the issue is that people see Nick as just a cripple. However, those who stand by him, from his mother to eventually his former wrestling coach know they see the potential and untapped talent Nick has and when Abi suffers a tragic fate, Nick decides to unleash his skills for both he and his best friend.

Christian pulls off an impressive performance as Newell while Barry Livingston, forever known for his child role in My Three Sons, does amazingly as Newell’s former wrestling coach turned MMA trainer. Elisabeth Röhm is great as Newell’s mom Stacey, who makes her own sacrifices to make sure her son can achieve his dreams. She is the epitome of a supportive parent. And while we learn about Nick’s father in the first half of the film, we do get to see Nick reunite with his dad and offering him a chance to make things right. Kevin Pollak even continues to prove himself as a serious actor in the role of a small local promoter who becomes Nick’s guide to the top, and when he’s denied a chance for the championship at first, he becomes the dynamite needed to ensure Nick gets his shot.

Notorious Nick is one of the ultimate underdog stories. The true story of the MMA fighter has some very pivotal moments, both on a sports level and emotional level. Cody Christian gives it his all in the titular role with a supporting cast who do a great job in showing that anyone with hard work can achieve their dreams.

WFG RATING: B+

Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment presents a Make the Movie production. Director: Aaron Leong. Producers: Mark S. Allen, Mark DiSalle, and Howard Burd. Writers: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Darrin Reed. Cinematography: Brian Hamm. Editing: Ian Webb.

Cast: Cody Christian, Barry Livingston, Kevin Pollak, Elisabeth Röhm, Cameron Matthews, Sammy Horowitz, James Hiser, Jonathan Cowley, Erik Sundquist.

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