Review: Donnybrook (2018)

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Donnybrook (2018)

Directed by: Tim Sutton | 101 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Frank Grillo, Jamie Bell, Chris Browning, Adam Bartley, Chris Browning, Kevin Crowley, James Badge Dale, Rhyan Elizabeth Hanavan, Pat Healy, James Landry Hébert, Michael King, Nathan Neorr, Valerie Jane Parker, Jeff Potts, Margaret Qualley Dara Jade Tiller, David Myers Gregory

Director Tim Sutton’s ‘Donnybrook’ stars Jamie Bell (‘Billy Elliot’, ‘Rocketman’) as ex-Marine ‘Jarhead’ Earl, fighting hard to make ends meet. He works for a better life for his addicted wife Tammy and his two young children, daughter Scout and son Moses. To achieve this, he wants to win Donnybrook, a kind of boxing match with bare hands, all participating fighters together in a cage. All this according to the principle of ‘last man standing wins the prize’, 100,000 dollars to be exact.

Along the way, he also has to deal with his greatest tormentor, Chainsaw Angus, drug dealer. This sinister character (Frank Grillo, ‘The Grey’, ‘End of Watch’) has his sister Delia as a sidekick and the two have a strange relationship. The duo sows murder and destruction in order to be assured of ‘trade’.

There are some obstacles to overcome, but Earl manages to reach Donnybrook. In the final ‘final’ he only has to deal with his devilish opponent, Angus…

The character Angus is brimming with violence. The viewer does not understand how he has become like this and why he is so typical with his sister Delia. Delia, desperate for ‘a man who won’t abuse her’, has a soft spot for family man Earl. In between acts, Detective Donny Whalen (James Badge Dale) also tries to capture Angus.

The protagonists only communicate the essentials and that doesn’t make it any happier. The desolation, the inability and the gloom, it is all palpable. Yet it all does little for you, because it is explained too simply.

In the ‘famous last words’ category, when asked by his daughter why the Northern states won the Civil War, Earl says: “They fought for it. That’s the only way for people like us.” Poverty in the Southern states therefore boils down to the following: either you make money in the drug trade or by committing robberies. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. To escape from this harsh truth, this nihilistic existence, a boxing match has to be won. Simple, isn’t it?

Actually, after twenty minutes of watching you are already despondent in the ropes. ‘Donnybrook’ pretends a lot, but delivers little. You’re knocked out afterwards, but not for the right reasons. Sutton wanted to deliver a classic, but everything just kind of hangs in the air.

The only two bright spots in the film are Delia, portrayed with empathy by Margaret Qualley (‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’, ‘The Nice Guys’) and Alexander Washburn. Two stars in a dark sky…

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