July 29, 2019  (Web Review)

Donnybrook

Shout! Factory, 102 min., R, DVD: $16.99, Blu-ray: $22.99, Aug. 6

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

A grim, violent story about people who live not so much on the margins of society as virtually off the grid, Tim Sutton’s Donnybrook is a dark fable-like tale of good against pure evil. Somewhere in the decaying heartland of America, ex-Marine Jarhead Earl (Jamie Bell) is desperate to save his addict wife from brutal drug-dealer Chainsaw Angus (Frank Grillo). Earl also needs money to support his young son Moses (Alex Washburn), which is why he robs a store to cover his entrance fee for Donnybrook—a free-style rustic cage rumble that promises a prize of $100,000 to the sole survivor. Coincidentally, Angus also decides to join the underground fray and he makes his way to the secret site, pursued by a stern local sheriff (James Badge Dale) who aims to arrest him for murder—or simply kill him. One sympathizes with the sad, sullen Earl, of course, but Grillo burns up the screen as a seemingly unstoppable killing machine, and by the time the two men inevitably face off after disposing of the other contenders, it is clear that even if Earl manages to win, the cost of victory will be high. Sutton presents this brutal tale as though it were a modern-day Greek tragedy, a parable of the cruel reality of contemporary American society with its divisions of class and economic opportunity. Unfortunately, it comes across like vicious, overblown pulp, a pointless—albeit skillfully made—wallow in misery. Optional. (F. Swietek)