review by Bobby Blakey
We don’t get enough movies about Muay Thai in my opinion. Obviously my love for all things martial arts and training in Muay Thai myself makes me bias, but still. The latest film Haymaker from writer, director and star Nick Sasso looks to give me my Muay Thai fix. The film also stars Nomi Ruiz, John Ventimiglia, Veronica Falcón, Udo Kier, Zoë Bell, and D.B. Sweeney, but does it bring the traditional Thai boxing along with the potential love story or will it be down for the count before the bell rings?
Haymaker follows a retired Muay Thai fighter working as a bouncer, who rescues an alluring transgender performer from a nefarious thug, eventually becoming her bodyguard, protector, and confidant. The relationship leads Sasso's character to make an unexpected return to fighting, risking not only his relationship, but his life. Haymaker tells a story about human dignity and love.
Before we get into this review I must let you know that this is not a Muay Thai movie in the action sense, but instead more of a book end and background to the lead character. There is a great Muay Thai training montage and even some Muay Thai fights later in the film, but that is about it. The rest of the film is more of a strange love story akin to films like The Bodyguard.
Sasso does a decent job with the role he has written in both the performance and Muay Thai stuff. He is a bit dry at times and there isn’t a lot of emotion in his character until later in the film, but clearly by design. I would have liked to see more depth brought to his performance and not just in his back story. His co-star Nomi Ruiz does a good job as well. She is apparently already and established singer and does a decent job in the role. I found it interesting that her getting to play the transgender role wasn’t something that was a focal point but instead just fact.
This is more of a story of two people who find each other while trying to find their way in life than a direct love story. Their friendship is the backbone to the film and while it works it just felt like there was something always a bit off in the overall film. Maybe it was in my own focus going in of wanting more Muay
Thai, but I also think it spends so much time building to something that by the time it finally gets to something it felt like it went more of a Hollywood stereotype ending instead of letting it feel more cohesive.
I applaud Sasso and the cast for bringing a story like this to the screen. As a whole it is a decent film and despite it being a more independent film still felt like something bigger at times. I felt the promotion of the Muay Thai elements is a bit misleading, but at the same time it is a part of the story so it’s probably just me. This is not a film for anyone looking for a straight up martial arts flick, but if you can get past that then decide for yourself and check out Haymaker in Theaters, On Demand and Digital now from Gravitas Ventures.