Vlad Yudin’s provocatively titled informational documentary The Hurt Business feels like a cinematic version of a survey course on the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). For those in the dark but curious about MMA, Mr. Yudin’s film, narrated by longtime MMA fan Kevin Costner, can serve as a useful introduction. But even casual fans like myself are not likely to find much that is revelatory or controversial in this competent, by-the-numbers offering.
Mr. Yudin’s access to MMA stars past and present gives devotees a chance to see their beloved fighters speak: the always entertaining Dan Severn, Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock, Kenny Florian, Urijah Faber, Ronda Rousey and others contribute mostly pedestrian sound bites. There are exceptions, such as when Tito Ortiz admits to vomiting and crying before every match. But then there are conspicuous omissions: Georges St-Pierre, one of two or three greatest MMA fighters of all time, is never asked about his voluntary surrender of the welterweight title and retirement at what most people considered to be the peak of his career.
The film’s dramatic focus is on four storylines: Jon Jones, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion (at time of filming) and his preparation for his match against Ovince Saint Preux. The former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and his recuperation from knee surgery. Sixth ranked Sara McMann and her getting ready for a fight whose outcome she hopes will reestablish her contender status. And Michael Guymon, a likeable 40-year-old depression-prone mixed martial artist who never made the big time, is now medically unfit to fight and struggling to keep his MMA gym a going concern.
Yet these athletes, for all their remarkable abilities, for all their hardships, do not grab our attention—they politely solicit it. One gets the sense that the director didn’t want to push his subjects too far, didn’t want to get too intimate—it’s worth noting that some of the more dramatic revelations are introduced in the credits at the end of the movie.
Mr. Yudin’s film wants for drama, for a point of view, for cinematic weight. It’s a lot of talking heads for a movie about fighting, and at nearly two hours it feels overlong. Still, as an introduction to what is the fastest growing sport on the planet, and as a curiosity for fans of its stars, The Hurt Business is worth a look.
The Hurt Business
The Vladar Company
in English | 2016 | Color | 147 min.
released Sept. 29; coming soon to DVD and VOD
for more info, visit The Hurt Business Movie