If you want a different cinematic experience – whether you’re a wrestling fan or not – then this feel-good ‘rags to riches’ story packs some real punches.
This Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson-produced (he also cameos) pet project – after he saw the documentary on which the film is based when he was filming Fast & Furious 6 in London in 2012 – is a biographical sports-comedy drama inspired by the career of former WWE wrestler Paige, who went on to become the Women’s (Divas) World Champion.
And while – like the sports entertainment it portrays – it’s a bit rough around the edges, this film, written and directed by Ricky Gervais’ The Office and Extras right-hand man Stephen Merchant, coasts on relatable charm and oodles of heart.
And particularly the two lead performances of Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden as Knight siblings Saraya and Zak.
Dad Ricky (The Cornetto Trilogy’s Nick Frost) and Mum Julia Knight (Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey) try to eek out a living performing wrestling events at small venues via their Norwich-based promotion.
Their eldest son Roy is already in jail for assault after going berserk for failing to make the grade with World Wrestling Entertainment several years before – and Ricky is also a recovering alcoholic – so the parents’ fortunes seem to rest with their talented offspring of second son Zak and daughter Saraya – who go by the wrestling pseudonyms of ‘Zodiac’ and ‘Paige’ respectively.
So when the duo get invited to a WWE trial, things go awry when the seemingly more talented and passionate Zak fails to make the grade, but his little sister does – being offered a developmental contract at the NXT training camp in Florida.
What ensues is two intertwining stories which portrays the heartache, anger and jealousy of new father Zak, and the loneliness of misfit Saraya trying to make the WWE grade under the tutelage of Vince Vaughn’s wrestling coach Hutch Morgan – which leads to the once close-knit siblings drifting apart.
And while Paige’s story has undoubtedly been given some Hollywood-ification, any wrestling fan familiar with the tale will definitely find plenty to enjoy here – as this seems to stick quite faithfully with the real-life events seen in the original documentary.
If you’re not a wrestling fan then feel free to knock off a mark, but there’s still an amiability to this that should appeal across all demographics, even if you don’t initially think this will be your cup-of-tea.
Just like Paige’s signature finishing move, there’s more than enough passion and intrigue from start to finish to make this a ‘Paige Turner’ on-screen – and provides one of the best slams at the movies so far this year to boot.
Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, Mohammed Amiri, Jack Gouldbourne, Elroy Powell, Hannah Rae, Julia Davis, Stephen Merchant, Thea Trinidad, James Burrows, Stephen ‘Seamus’ Farrelly & Paul ‘The Big Show’ Wight
Running Time: 1 Hr 48 Mins
Director: Stephen Merchant
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