Movie Review: 'Cagefighter: Worlds Collide'
MMA Movie with the ambition of a pre-fight marketing vignette.
Cagefighter: Worlds Collide stars Alex ‘Mean’ Montagnani as Reiss Gibbons, the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World in Legends MMA, the film approximation of UFC. Gina Gershon co-stars as Max, the Dana White character, a promoter always on the lookout for the big money fight. Max appears to have found her next big money fight when she books a professional wrestler named Randy Stone (AEW star Jonathan ‘Moxley’ Good) to face Reiss.
At first, Reiss has no interest in the fight. Reiss doesn’t respect Randy’s background in pro wrestling and is currently more interested in booking promotional deals and working on building a movie career. One ludicrous payday later however, Reiss is ready to step into the ring with Randy Stone and risk his reputation and his career on what he assumes will be a sure thing victory over a fake fighter.
If you cannot predict what comes next then you’ve never seen a sports movie before. Of course, Reiss gets his clock cleaned by the wrestling guy. This leads to Reiss losing his sponsorship deals and he gets dropped from his movie star debut because his loss became a meme of him crying in the corner of the ring once he woke up from being knocked completely out. The humiliation leads to more mistakes until Reiss destitute and looks to be retired from the fight game following another humiliating defeat.
Cagefighter: Worlds Collide is an amateur level effort. Each perfunctory scene plays out in the most boring fashion possible when the movie is not in the cage. The fight scenes are the best thing in the movie but even the fights aren’t without significant issues. The fights we watch have Reiss barely throwing punches and absorbing ludicrous amounts of punishment, pouring blood, eyes swollen shut and yet the fights go on. It becomes too unbelievable after a while much to the detriment of the intended drama.
In the last fight of the movie which I won’t spoil, though you can probably guess, Reiss becomes the MMA equivalent of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He nearly loses an eye, he’s pouring blood, he pulls a muscle, and generally absorbs a ludicrous amount of punishment. The beating is so thorough that it loses any real impact. And, with this being a not particularly ambitious sports movie, it’s also incredibly predictable. There is no drama, and certainly not the kind of drama this incredibly self-serious movie intends.
The few attempts at humor made in Cagefighter: Worlds Collide are embarrassing. A scene early in the movie has Reiss and his manager/best friend Tony (Luke Rockhold), meeting with sponsors offering all sorts of reasonable seeming sponsorships while they giggle like children over the money being offered and the products they are being pitched, all of which they accept which leads you to wonder what was so funny about the scene if all of the pitches for shoes, clothes, movie roles were all serious?
Outside of the detour into ‘comedy’ and the self-seriousness of the actual fights, Cagefighter: Worlds Collide plays like a dramatization of the pre-fight hype documentaries that HBO made famous in their boxing coverage and that combat sports has embraced as a marketing tool over the years. These are vignettes where fighters and announcers narrate the struggles that the fighter has overcome or is looking to overcome inside the cage.
Show don't tell is the advice that is often given to screenwriters and directors in their attempts to make something compelling. The makers of Cagefighter: Worlds Collide never got that memo. So much of the movie is tell don't show such as a recurring character called The Nightmare who we never see but continue to hear about like a veritable Poochie.
Gina Gershon is incredibly bored in Cagefighter: Worlds Collide. Gershon appears to be waiting for the ink on her paycheck to dry as she shuffles into scenes, spouts inane dialogue about the marketing of Mixed Martial Arts and the crowd sizes, stadium sizes and all other sorts promoter-speak. If you love the logistics of putting on an MMA show, Cagefighter: Worlds Collide has time wasting jargon and clichés you will truly enjoy.
Star Alex Montagnani is thoroughly defeated by Cagefighter: Worlds Collide. No first time actor could overcome the amateur, low ambition presentation of this movie, let alone a sports star turned first time actor. The movie is directed as if it were a pre-fight hype package stretched to feature length. You've likely seen these marketing vignettes before every fight for the last 30 years. They feature announcers and fighters laying out the challenges the fighter is facing or has faced in the past in narration and edited over shots of the fighter working out or growing up or whatever other maudlin filler you can think of.
Imagine that stretched over about 45 minutes and intercut with fight scenes so unrelentingly unbelievable that they approach comical heights of violence and disrepair to the human body. Yes, I am aware how physical an MMA fight can be but, as presented here, in this movie, the violence is too punishing to be believed. The odds are stacked so high at a certain point that they become too unbelievable, they stretch credibility to a breaking point.
Now, of course, it's time for your main event. The reason most people are reading a critical analysis of a movie such as Cagefighter: Worlds Collide: How is Jon Moxley in the movie? For the uninitiated, Jonathan Good, aka All Elite Wrestling World champion Jon Moxley, plays Randy Stone in his acting debut. The role is relatively small and it asks very little of the wrestler formerly known as Dean Ambrose in the WWE.
Good or Mox, as fans call him in AEW, yells a lot, curses more than he's allowed on cable and hams it up enough to be the most entertaining character in the movie. That said, Mox has been in more dramatic and dramatically engaging professional wrestling matches than anything on display in this actual movie. If you want some real drama and violent excitement, watch Good as Jon Moxley fight Kenny Omega at Full Gear 2019 in an unsanctioned lights out match. That's dramatic and exciting and at only 45 or so minutes, way less of a time suck than Cagefighter: Worlds Collide.
Cagefighter: Worlds Collide debuts on digital streaming services on October 9th.