Joining the likes of ‘12 Rounds 3: Lockdown’ and ‘The Marine 6: Close Quarters’, WWE Studios’ latest film, ‘Fighting with My Family’, follows the Norwich-to-WrestleMania true story of WWE’s Paige, directed by The Giant himself, Stephen Merchant.
Opening immediately with a nostalgic montage of The Rock’s wrestling highlights, circa 2000-01, two children – Zak Bevis and Saraya Bevis, later to be Zak Zodiac and Paige – are fighting over what’s to be watched on TV. Parents, Patrick (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey), soon intervene…but only to advise their children how to wrestle properly, as seen in the trailers. A slightly dysfunctional, yet clearly close, family is established.
Now a little older, Saraya (Florence Pugh) is fighting with her brother in their dad’s Norwich-based wrestling promotion, WAW (World Association of Wrestling), dreaming of being signed by WWE. One day, that opportunity literally calls, as Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) from WWE’s NXT (like the reserve squad of a football club), offers a tryout session during the WWE’s UK tour. For Saraya and Zak, this opportunity is life or death – the streets of either Florida or Norwich await the grappling siblings, but despite the glamour of signing with WWE, it comes with heavy costs, both mentally and physically.
Florence Pugh is delightful in embodying the personality of both Saraya the person and Paige the wrestler, with the help of Impact wrestler, Tessa Blanchard, performing stunts. As expected, Nick Frost provides the comedy, even in already comedic scenes. A pleasant surprise, however, was Vince Vaughn. Currently in a stage of his career bouncing between physical roles in ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ and ‘Dragged Across Concrete’, it is a pleasure to see him excel in a role with the Rock-given nickname, “Sex Tape”. As for The Rock, like Brock Lesnar in contemporary WWE, his appearances are minimal, but they leave a lasting impact.
The magnificence in Merchant’s direction is that he is able to intertwine a television broadcast ‘look’ and film ‘look’ during wrestling matches, adding a feel of familiarity for wrestling fans, but also adding a non-naturalistic viewpoint on wrestling. Furthermore, Merchant is additionally successful in blending comedy with, at times, intense drama. Noticeably also, is that the tone transitions dramatically between humorous and serious when switching focus from Norwich to the US.
Funnily enough, for a 12A, there is a considerable amount of swearing and vulgarity. In saying that, the vulgar humor here and there is hilarious, though it may not go down too well with an unfamiliar American audience. That being said, Americans should know what a c*ck is – they elected one.
As far as wrestling films go, the sub-genre is far from headlining the WrestleMania of film sub-genres. The fascinating thing with the wrestling film, however, is that no two are quite the same. From ‘No Holds Barred’ to ‘Nacho Libre’, each wrestling film can be batsh*t bonkers (like pro wrestling itself) or possess a slightly warming touch to it, like both ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Fighting with My Family’.
The quality of ‘Fighting with My Family’ hopefully signifies better things to come from WWE Studios, though it can also be argued that they have played it safe with a “based on a true story” film on one of their own, which is also based on the 2012 documentary, rather than a completely original story. Ultimately, one does not have to be a fan of WWE or pro wrestling in general to like ‘Fighting with My Family’, though to be a fan of the wrasslin’ does have its advantages when watching this film.
Written by Dominic Hastings
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite wrestling movie?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let us know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.