Cert 12A 108mins Stars 4
Enjoy a crowd pleasing bout of fun with this real life rags to riches sports comedy set in the sparkly sequinned world of American pro-wrestling.
With winning performances, broad humour, and a huge heart, it sees a rough and ready English teenager attempt to become a wrestling champ.
Last seen in TV’s The Little Drummer Girl, Florence Pugh is a wonderful clenched fist of spiky vulnerability as Paige, the self-confessed, ‘weirdo freak from Norwich’ with big dreams.
Being from Middlesbrough I love a good underdog story and am more than used to ferocious women, but when Paige gets going she’s terrifying.
Short, pale skinned, and with heavy black make up and piercings, she’s at odds with her blonde, tall, toothy and tanned opponents.
Wrestling is a route out of poverty for Paige’s whole family, which brings friction, with her pushy parents, played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey.
And Paige’s combative relationship with her older brother, Zak, gives emotional weight to the drop kicks, flips and punches.
Normally sports movies fall at the hurdle of convincingly recreating the action, but wrestling is more entertainment spectacle than sport, so authenticity isn’t an issue. Nevertheless, the bouts are bone-jarringly physical.
Wrestling champ turned Hollywood superstar, Dwayne Johnson appears in two key scenes, and one time funny man Vince Vaughn wonderfully underplays as the coach in charge of the qualifying boot camps.
The jokes are heavily stacked at the beginning to help us sympathise with the characters, before the script knuckles down to become a full on sports movie, complete with a rock music training montage.
Having often been dismissed as little more than a sidekick to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant writes, produces, and has a small acting role in his impressive directorial debut.
And in having crafted a fully entertaining film, it turns out Merchant is by far the more talented of the pair.