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This mixed martial arts-based film takes the kung fu classic One-Armed Swordsman a step further by being based on real events: the unlikely rise of “Notorious” Nick Newell, who suffered a congenital amputation of his left arm, until he won the Xtreme Fighting Championship (XFC) Belt in 2012. Cody Christian, a small digital shimmer occasionally appearing on his severed limb by VFX, makes a committed change as Newell in a quick biopic which is a little on the plane but which can hardly fail to inspire.

Encouraged by his mother, Stacey (Elisabeth Röhm), ​​Newell joined his school wrestling team, where he was nicknamed “Elbow” by top students. But it wasn’t until his mate Abi (Cameron James Matthews) was killed in a motorcycle crash, as the two battled in the local MMA qualifying rounds, that Newell gained enough self-confidence to make a career in the fight. As he climbs up the XFC rankings, he comes up against an obstacle even bigger than his handicap: the refusal of other fighters to step into the ring with him, believing it to be a lose-lose situation. Win, and it’s a win over a penguin; get beaten, and the same applies.

Watch the Nororious Nick Trailer

There is a commendable and ruthless side to director Aaron Leong’s handling of his subject, which shows some brutal hits Newell takes on the path to self-control. Shot in pale-padded Adrenalin-o-vision, the fight sequences are handled with skill – though more dramatization of the process by which Newell converted his physical uniqueness into a force would have been a good thing. The story is cut a bit too close to the Rocky-underdog model, although it does allow the central message – there’s no handicap, the wisdom Newell passes on to a young amputee fan – to connect cleanly. But this is a superficial treatment that favors easy messages and momentum over any grueling struggle with emotional complexities.

Notorious Nick is on digital platforms starting September 6.


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