Review by Sean Boelman
With his directorial debut Haymaker, Nick Sasso has delivered a fighting movie — if one can even call it that — that feels so derivative and shallow that its positive message can’t come through. This is one of those cases where the filmmakers’ heart was definitely in the right place, but the execution is just so mediocre that it fails them.
The film tells the story of a retired fighter who rescues a transgender performer from a thug and ends up becoming her bodyguard, learning lessons in humanity along the way. It’s basically The Bodyguard if it were even more sentimental and cheesy, which is a shame since the compassion it shows is something that people could definitely need to hear.
However, apart from this lesson in morality, the movie has disappointingly little to say. It’s a shallow film made with good intentions, but Sasso seems to have been unable to find a way to translate those good intentions into something with any sort of real substance. Sasso explores these themes effectively within the first thirty minutes, and so the rest of the movie feels pretty empty.
The film is really short, clocking in at around an hour and fifteen minutes before credits, and this pacing is a big part of the movie’s issues. The film is mostly sweet and harmless, but it often feels like Sasso is trying to hit the obligatory beats as quickly as possible without worrying about efficiency or effectiveness whatsoever.
Sasso does a good enough job of making the audience sympathize with the characters, but much like the rest of the movie, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to their development. Thankfully, there is enough of an investment in their relationship together for the dynamic to work, but on an individual level, they both feel like stock characters.
The acting in the film is mostly very weak, and this causes the movie to be even less resonant. Sasso plays the lead role himself, and he is completely wooden. Granted, the lack of subtlety in the role doesn’t lend itself to nuance, but his performance feels completely bland. Nomi Ruiz is much better, but isn’t given a whole lot to do. And for some reason, Udo Kier shows up in a useless bit part.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the film is its execution. Sasso’s movie is barely competent, with seemingly very little thought put into the way in which the film is shot. The cinematography is actively ugly at multiple points, and the few Muay Thai sequences simply aren’t exciting. With a more experienced director at the helm, this could have been salvaged.
Haymaker is the type of movie it is hard to pan because everyone involved is clearly trying their hardest to make something legitimately good. Unfortunately, all of the aspects of its production are so lackluster that it doesn’t resonate.
Haymaker is now available on VOD.