'Here Comes the Boom': MMA's Greatest Film to Date?

Matt Molgaard@MattmolgaardCorrespondent IIIFebruary 9, 2013

I’ve seen numerous films based (loosely) on professional mixed martial arts competition. The majority of films adopting this content hit the market and fizzle before word of mouth ever has a chance to take these low-budget productions as anything more than cheap thrills designed to capitalize on a blossoming sport’s startling popularity.

Whether shot on an embarrassingly low budget, delivered under a cloak of completely delusional “facts”, or simply so cheesy that inanimate nacho cheese fountains feel completely spurned, your average mixed martial arts film tends to fail.

No, scratch that, fail is a kind word: these productions implode before early screenings. They embarrass both professional athletes and dedicated supporters, and I can’t imagine any studio finding the slightest measure of reward in the slew of crappy MMA themed movies to hit the market over the last half a decade or so.

Need some examples of embarrassing attempts at capitalizing financially on an amazingly pure sport that should probably never have been burdened by the idea of cinematic adaptation? Take a look at flicks like Beatdown, Death Warrior, Fighting, Locked Down, the Never Back Down franchise and Never Submit, to name but a few.

These are nauseating productions with not a trace of heart or passion invested. In fact, what they are is rushed martial arts flicks that pay no respect to martial arts or the intensity that goes into training as a true professional.

Some of those weaknesses are forgivable. If you can craft an engaging script, centered around the sport of mixed martial arts, some cheesy acting and miserable choreography are elements that can be looked beyond.

But none of these films respect the craft. Not only do they not respect today’s mixed martial artists, there seems to be no desire to relay a fighters life on screen as it is away from film, you know, in real life.

These films are miserable. Outside of 2010's The Hammer (which suffered from some abysmal acting), very few films of this nature merit a full screening. Redbelt was a surprisingly entertaining film that nailed some professional practices with conviction, but beyond that, Hollywood has given us dud after dud after dud. As a mixed martial arts fan, it’s become nerve racking.

When Frank Coraci’s Here Comes the Boom was announced, my hopes skittered around the bottom of the barrel. I’ve worked my excitement up to wild levels in the past, and after countless disappointments, I refused to cave to the impulse to see this film.

It looked entertaining, featured a handful of professional fighters, showcased the heaven send Selma Hayek and was shot on a respectable budget. Despite those differentiating (when compared to other similar themed productions) strengths, I harbored noteworthy doubts.

By all accounts, Here Comes the Boom looked like every other promising combat sport film...Every other promising combat sport film, that ultimately face-planted harder than D.J. Linderman after marching directly into the powerful fists of Anthony Johnson at the first World Series of Fighting event last year. 

So why extend the benefit of the doubt? Why invest even a few dollars in a 24-hour rental? Well, because my daughter hounded me to the point of insanity. She worships MMA (and Junior dos Santos in particular) and I felt that to deny her a chance to screen the film was to deny her one more aspect of the purest sport in existence.

Sure we’re talking about a film, rather than actual professional competition...but when your 11-year-old finds thorough entertainment in mixed martial arts, it’s difficult to deny them their young fix of controlled violence.

We rented Here Comes the Boom this evening.

My daughter, who holds both Kevin James and the sport of mixed martial arts dear to her heart, absolutely loved the film. She beamed, emitted a few hearty laughs and seemed overcome by a solid sense of satisfaction as the credits rolled. Her ability to identify Bas Rutten, Chael Sonnen and Joe Rogan likely played powerful in her expansion of confidence.

But to be fair, I enjoyed these cameos as well. In fact, in a prominent supporting role, Bas Rutten didn’t simply scrape by on the skin of his teeth, he actually turned in a surprisingly polished performance.

Bas looks comfortable in front of the camera (he’s had years worth of commentating and recurring television appearances to hone his craft and discover his natural comfort zone) and if I were completely ignorant to the sport, I might mistake him for a solid actor who happened to get a late start in the business. That’s impressive, and I think it speaks testament to the scope of Rutten’s talents.

Joe Rogan brings a nice relaxed (refrain from the jokes please!) vibe to the screen, and he never once looks uncomfortable while putting in work. Mark DellaGrotte, Mark Munoz, Jacob 'Stitch' Duran, Bruce Buffer, Jason Miller, Herb Dean and Mike Goldberg all seem to have a good time in bringing something slightly less genuine to the screen.

I’m happy to note that Kevin James, Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben, who wrote the script, pull back the reins on the embarrassingly bad dialogue. The trio really works to bring a controlled measure to the comedy, and they seem content to draw minor chuckles, not insistent attempts to pressure viewers into riotous laughter.

This isn’t a hilarious film, that approach would fail miserably. This is a story of prioritization and proper moral code. Some steady jokes work their way into the package, but there’s a moral to be found here that were clearly aligned to neutralize the chuckles.

Here Comes the Boom is a fun family-friendly flick that works to give strangers an interesting first look at the regional level of mixed martial arts promotions, all the while reminding the audience that passion for what is right loiters in the company of the highest power.

A reason to thrive, a reason to fight. A reason to aspire for something greater, Here Comes the Boom offers a message of substance. It’s worth a look, and it’s certainly one of the very best MMA-themed productions we’ve seen thus far.       

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