March 5, 2019 – I went into this movie thinking it was going to be a fictional comedy. It turns out be a biopic drama with some comic overtones, and a good one at that. Also, it is more of a British film than it is an American film, even though it is an British-American co-production.
The comic aspects of the film are circumstantial, owing to the very off-beat nature of the Knight family of Norwich, England, who are all wrestlers. Father Ricky Knight (Nick Frost of “Hot Fuzz”) and mother Julia Knight (Lena Headey of “300: Rise of an Empire”) are both wrestling promoters, operators of a wrestling school and former wrestlers.
The Knight children, Saraya (Florence Pugh of “Lady Macbeth”) and Zak Knight (Jack Lowden of “Mary Queen of Scots”) are both wrestlers who train and teach at the Knight's wrestling school, and wrestle in the independent wrestling circuit. The various Knight enterprises, including the sale of souvenirs, generates just enough to keep the van running and the family sustained. But they have dreams of fame and glory in the pinnacle of this kind of wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Zak and Saraya are invited to a WWE tryout, and Saraya is selected. She tries hard to convince the trainer, Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn of “Hacksaw Ridge”) to take her brother as well, but Morgan refuses to change his mind. Saraya is invited to Florida to train with other candidates at the WWE-owned NXT, a kind of minor league of professional wrestling.
Saraya, fighting under the stage name of Paige, has a hard time adjusting to life in NXT. Most of the other wrestlers are former models, with no wrestling experience. She doesn't get along with them and she is homesick. She gets depressed and wants to quit. She is challenged by Morgan to answer his questions about her motivations, “Why are you here?” Is she wrestling just because it is what her parents want? Does she have the inner drive and desire to make it on her own?
On a trip home, Saraya has a heart-to-heart talk with her brother, who is mad at her because he thinks she stole his chance at WWE stardom. She looks within herself and finds the answer to Morgan's challenges. Returning to Florida, she redoubles her efforts to get into the WWE and mends fences with her fellow trainees.
This movie is based on a 2012 documentary, “The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family,” which can be seen on YouTube. Some clips from that documentary are shown at the end of this biopic. Without those clips and references in the film to the real Knight Family, I would have sworn this is a made-up story. Probably some of it is made up, but the real story behind this movie seems amazing to me.
The biggest name associated with this film is Dwayne Johnson, a huge action star. He plays himself in this movie as a star and promoter of the WWE. He is in only a few scenes, though. The real stars of this movie are Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost and Lena Headey. They all give convincing performances. This is one wacky family. This film rates a B.
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