Starring Jamie Bell, Frank Grillo, Margaret Qualley, James Badge Dale,
Jamie Bell (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”) has two films at TIFF this year, apparently, I saw the wrong one. “Donnybrook” is a cross between a drama about poverty issues (“Winters Bone”) and a high stakes street-fighting action flick (“Warrior”). We see drug dealing/drug selling elements similar to “Winters Bone,” which take up the majority of the screen time. In fact, if “Donnybrook” continues to be marketed as a neo-Nazi fight flick as it was in the TIFF description, there are going to be some unhappy viewers. “Donnybrook” contains sadistic violence which was so off-putting many walked out of the screening. Beyond the fact there isn’t one single appealing character or scene, Tim Sutton’s direction is disconcerted and unfocused.
They call him Jarhead Earl (Bell), and the only thing he wants out of life is to support his wife and kids. In the backwoods Ohio town where they live the two best options in life are to make a living dealing drugs or escape a horrible existence by using them. Earl understands he will lose his wife if he doesn’t get her treatment. His plan is to raise enough money doing local parking lot fights to enter an exclusive last man standing cage fight where two or more men and women brawl at the same time. Chainsaw Angus (Frank Grillo) is the meth supplier for the town. His little sister Delia (Margaret Qualley) functions as a partner and executioner when needed, although she gives the men quite a climax before blowing their brains out. Angus also plans to enter the contest and when Earl gets in his way, the two men have more than the 100k prize money to fight over.
"Bell is the anti-hero, small frame, loving father, it’s impossible not to empathize with."
“Donnybrook” might be a movie about drugs and fighting, but the script takes many a moment to show violent executions on screen. Things only make sense when the filmmakers want them to. For instance, Delia will torture and violently kill someone, yet when she’s had enough of her brother, she carelessly shoots him and assumes he dead. Delia’s character is the most inconsistent and doesn’t earn the arc that occurs. Grillo, no stranger to fight-films, is all villain and apparently no other explanation is needed. All his scenes are either cooking meth or killing someone. Bell is the anti-hero, small frame, loving father, it’s impossible not to empathize with. However, Earl’s violence toward a cop will have viewers wondering who to root for.
So much of “Donnybrook" is unnecessary, none more so than the corrupt sheriff played by James Badge Dale (“13 Hours”). He adds a brief third and separate storyline that as it ends up, is about nothing more than another scene of violent execution. Ultimately, The anticipation for the brawl does not elevate the boxing genre to any new heights nor does it provide any satisfactory conclusion to a film that has very little to say on poverty, drug use or violence. "Donnybrook" takes a “this is the circumstance” outlook as it pummels the viewer with violence for violence sake.
A repulsive story of drugs and street-fighting that wallows in violence more than suspense.