A Fighting Man was ultimately entertaining and effective”

by Nav Qateel

Writer-director Damian Lee is perhaps better known for his low-budget efforts, and while not all hit their intended mark, the filmmaker’s latest film A Fighting Man is one of his best to date. In this tale of hope, redemption and forgiveness, we see two boxers fighting in the ring as the story of how the pair got there, is played out in flashbacks.

Over-the-hill ex-boxer Sailor O’Connor has just learned his mother is dying of cancer. With the doctor predicting she has 6 months left, Sailor comes out of retirement for one last fight, to pay for a trip so his mother can see her native Ireland a final time.

Sailor’s (Dominic Purcell) opponent is the young up-and-comer King Solomon (Izaak Smith), a fighter with something to prove–who also has a new wife and a baby on the way. The fight has been put together by an unscrupulous boxing promoter (is there any other kind in movies?) who has been imaginatively named Fast Eddie (Adam Beach). King is escaping a homelife where his mother is a junkie and boxing offers him a future.

A Fighting Man
Written & Directed by
Damian Lee
Dominic Purcell, Izaak Smith, Famke Janssen, Louis Gossett Jr., James Caan, Adam Beach
DVD Release Date
17 June 2014
Nav’s Grade: C+

The woman in Sailor’s life, Dianne (Famke Janssen), has just been released from prison after serving 5 years, and now she’s seeking redemption for something, but you’ll just have to watch the film to find out what her crime was. This plays a large part of the story but that particular arc is the slowest to be revealed and proves to be what drives Sailor on. He’s never been put down in the ring before but King is determined to be the very first to lay Sailor out.

A Fighting Man has an impressive cast of older actors, who play the boxers’ corner men, with James Caan, Louis Gossett Jr. and Michael Ironside. Damian Lee regular Kim Coates plays a priest who we see offering spiritual advice to Sailor, his mother and Dianne. Sailor’s mother has lost her faith but it has nothing to do with her cancer, but to do with Dianne’s crime. The message of ‘forgiveness’ is strong in this film and actually worked really well as part of the story.

My only complaint is the amount of threads Lee has woven into the tale as it borders on being convoluted, and the big reveal involving Dianne felt more confusing than revelatory. For all that A Fighting Man was ultimately entertaining and effective, and felt like a cross between Rocky and Cinderella Man, only done on a much smaller scale. A Fighting Man is well acted and filmed, and is actually worth going out of your way to see. I don’t normally have a great deal of praise for Lee’s movies, however his latest film is a surprising exception.