The synopsis of Blackbear vaguely reminds one of the 2006 film Annapolis–a film that, if you recall (and if so, good for you), was marketed as a recruit training film in the vein of A Gentleman and an Officer, but was actually, secretly, a boxing film. Blackbear is similar: it starts off as a war film, with the two central characters as captives by ISIS, only to quickly become a boxing film within the film’s first act. While this is hardly deceptive, and hardly problem in its own right, it does recall some of the same problems that suffered Annapolis: it’s overacted, overwrought, and utterly forgettable.
The film follows two main characters, nicknamed Bear (Scott Pryor, also the film’s sole writer) and Cowboy (Darrin Dewitt Henson) after they escape captivity by ISIS agents (who are, unsurprisingly, presented as cartoonish villains). Bear, a former boxer, looks to re-enter the boxing world with his former coach (Eric Roberts, in his 100th role this year, probably), while Cowboy suffers a much more tragic scenario: he is given three months to live, while he discovers his wife is pregnant. Evidently, the film sets itself up for a grim, relentlessly dour 90 minutes.
The film is the work of obvious first-timers–this is J.M. Berrios’ directorial debut–yet a muted ambition that, with the right experience, crew, and resources, could achieve some great dramaturgy. Here, though, the film pales in comparison to recent boxing outings like Creed: the fight choreography leaves much to be desired, and is unsuccessful in immersing the viewer. While the film does pay a lot of service to PTSD, drug issues, and other issues facing veterans, the film never seems to make it an overarching connection to its central themes and struggles.
The talents behind Blackbear demonstrate some promise, but the film too simply feels reductive of other better (and in some cases, similarly mediocre) films.
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