Director: Vlad Yudin
Written by: Vlad Yudin
Narrated by: Kevin Costner
Featuring: Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Ronda Rousey, Titto Ortiz, Michael Guymon, Sara McMann, George St-Pierre, Chuck Liddell
Running time: 103 minutes
From the producers of Generation Iron, (a documentary on weight lifting that I reviewed a while ago), comes The Hurt Business, a similar documentary on mixed martial arts. This new documentary showcases the lives of several mixed martial artist athletes who are currently competing in the fastest growing sport in the world. The documentary crew follows them around as they struggle with their chosen fighting art and with their personal lives. We even get a bit of history to the sport from the coliseums of ancient Greece and Rome to modern day gladiatorial arenas like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Opening with a quote by Bruce Lee: ‘A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard’, and narrated by actor and director Kevin Costner, The Hurt Business features quite a roster of MMA stars, including the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Chuck Liddell and Ronda Rousey in candid talking heads mini interviews. The documentary opens the lid on the highs and lows of this incredibly popular sport in an interesting and forthright manner.
To be honest, I knew very little about mixed martial arts going into watching this documentary, but the film opened my eyes to the sheer scale of interest in this relatively new martial art and has encouraged me to follow it a bit more closely in future. Costner’s narration is the steady hand on the tiller of the narrative ship that this documentary is propelling forward, and Matthew Evans has done a good job with the editing, ensuring that the pacing is about right, and the cuts between scenes are unobtrusive.
It was interesting to me to find out that unsanctioned fights used to take place on Indian reservations in the states, and fighters would build up experience and their burgeoning reputations around these illegal fights. This occurrence, which kind of makes up the backbone of many of the fight tournament films that I’ve seen over the years (and laughed at a little), now makes those seemingly far-fetched films seem a bit more plausible and real. In fact, Orange County in the USA used to be a breeding ground for shoot-fighting champions who developed their skills on ranches and by fighting in barns.
The fighters themselves are a mixed bunch, some having had quite brutal backgrounds, coming from broken homes or from rough sink estates where they had to grow up fast, and grow up to become ‘hard as nails’ faster still, in order to survive.
The rules of MMA are simple – no biting and no eye-gouging is allowed, but other than that there don’t seem to be any rules. I suspect that there’s an unwritten rule of not punching or kicking your opponent in the nuts, but I could be wrong about that! In the early days referees weren’t allowed to stop fights, but that has changed now – it’s at their discretion. The days of mismatched (size-wise) opponents are over too, with the emphasis being more on entertainment nowadays, matching similar weights with each other, which seems a fairer idea to me.
A sports psychologist, who’s interviewed in the documentary, reports witnessing a lot of tears in his office over the years, as he has found that most MMA fighters are perfectionists, unhappy with themselves, and who fear failure. Most also fear receiving a serious, disabling injury more than death itself. In fact, most fighters do suffer from serious injuries, especially around the head area. One fighter, for example, has suffered from 14 concussions – that can’t be good for you! It’s no surprise then that the average fighting career lasts for only nine years.
Apparently, the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) are still illegal in New York City but are legal in the rest of the States. The politics behind this decision are talked about in the documentary.
One out of three fights are won on a technical knock-out, and it’s the hope of seeing a knock-out that seems to keep the punters coming back.
There’s also a darker side to the sport, with some critics accusing many of the fighters of being on steroids, which again can be damaging for a fighter’s health in the long-term. And, as so often happens, fighters are exploited by unscrupulous promoters who skim off most of the money, rewarding the fighters with only two per cent of their total earnings from their fights!
Overall, I found the documentary to be very revealing about this massively popular sport that seems to attract a surprisingly wide range of fans; a bit like wrestling and boxing have over the years. The Hurt Business is definitely worth a look, especially if you’re interested in martial arts and in sport in general.
Signature Entertainment are distributing The Hurt Business on DVD and on digital download. Extras on the disc include:
Deleted scenes (11.40 mins) – includes a good interview with a guy who apparently beat Brazilian Ju Jitzu legend, Royce Gracie in a fight.
Extended interviews (15 mins) – these are all pretty interesting.
Making of (12.5 mins) – a bit unusual having a ‘making of’ talking about a documentary, but it’s pretty decent. It includes an interview with director Vlad Yudin, who also made Generation Iron. He talks about how the documentary took in 20 cities in its bid to grant MMA more exposure to a wider audience.