Column, Movie Diary

The Movie Diary: Fighting for a cause 

When I was growing up, my father loved to watch boxing on the weekends. I don’t remember him ever attending any in-person matches, but he would spend hours scrutinizing fights on television. 

Since he controlled the dial, I watched a lot of boxing by default. I got to know the major fighters and their stats and eventually looked forward to particular matches. He loved that I was following the sport, so part of the appeal for me was knowing that I was pleasing him. 

My favorite memory of watching fights with my dad was his tendency to become part of the match. He would sit fixated on the television screen with his fists tightened in his lap and then, out of nowhere, his shoulder would lurch forward like he was throwing a punch at a competitor’s head. Sometimes he would recognize his out-of-body experience and settle down, but other times he was apt to come right out of his recliner to yell at the screen.

Like all true fans, my dad had his favorite fighters and those he despised. He was not a fan of Muhammad Ali, mostly because of Ali’s ego. But he also looked down on Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War (my dad was a veteran and if someone acted unpatriotic, they became the enemy). However, he was an enthusiastic follower of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, often likening him to a warrior in the style of the Roman gladiators. 

There was a brief period when I attempted to watch professional wrestling (thinking that it was a compatible endeavor), but my father shot that down, referring to it as a “non-sport” filled with a bunch of overweight actors. So, while other boys my age enjoyed the rise of Hulkamania, I snubbed my nose at it out of respect for my father. 

My father passed away in 1989 and unfortunately, never saw the rise of Mixed Martial Arts, which he likely would have loved.

The modern era of MMA was ushered in with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993. Conceived as a no-holds-barred tournament to determine the most effective martial art, the early UFC events featured fighters from various disciplines, including boxing, karate, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu — all competing in a single elimination format.

Those early fights were spectacles (go back on YouTube and watch some of those matches — it’s insane). I remember being curious, but not overly interested. In my mind, there was something about the art form of boxing that superseded the rash thuggery of MMA.

As MMA gained popularity, concerns about fighter safety and sportsmanship prompted regulatory bodies to impose rules and regulations to govern the sport. This led to the adoption of weight classes, time limits, and restrictions on techniques such as eye gouging and groin strikes. Additionally, advancements in training methods and cross-training among different martial arts disciplines led to the emergence of well-rounded fighters capable of excelling in all aspects of combat.

In the early 2000s, MMA exploded into the mainstream consciousness, thanks in part to the success of fighters like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Tito Ortiz, who became household names and helped to legitimize the sport in the eyes of a judgmental public. Television deals, pay-per-view events, and lucrative sponsorship deals further propelled MMA into the spotlight, attracting a diverse fan base from around the world.

Today, MMA is a global phenomenon, with promotions such as Bellator MMA, ONE Championship, and the Professional Fighters League (PFL) hosting events in countries across every continent. The sport continues to evolve, with athletes continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible in hand-to-hand combat.

This week’s feature, “Road House,” focuses on a fictional ex-MMA fighter who gets hired to clean up a tourist bar in the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, there’s a developer nearby who wants to see the business fail so he can swoop in and buy the property. 

Obviously, this is a modern reimagining of the classic 1989 film of the same name. While the original “Road House” (starring Patrick Swayze) failed to make a big splash at the box office, it did eventually become a cult classic, making it worthy of this remake. 

This new version stars a ripped Jake Gyllenhaal and the notorious Conor McGregor. Gyllenhaal plays the lead beautifully (almost comically) while McGregor’s character is about as over-the-top as you can get. All in all, it’s campy and aggressive, but also a lot of fun.  

If it’s been a while since you’ve thrown a punch or you’re just in the mood for a good barroom brawl, then this is the film for you. It’s high on the testosterone, but low on the intellect, which really doesn’t matter for a distraction of this type.

A belligerent “B-” for “Road House,” now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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