Streaming Sleepers: Wes Chatham Delivers A Knockout In THE PHILLY KID
Director Jason Connery’s fourth feature came to me as a recommendation years ago from a friend who works in the Thai film industry, and happened to be a fan of Wes Chatham upon seeing 2012 indie action drama, The Philly Kid. I honestly don’t know how the marketing for this particular film was so I can’t really allege anything, but the film was pushed and release in the U.S. at the time from After Dark Action, an imprint of After Dark Films, and I eventually saw it in 2014 on Digital Download.
Fast forward nearly a decade later, and the film is currently streaming on Prime, which I thought would make for an ample opportunity to help get some eyes on this particular gem which sees Chatham in the role of Dillon, an ex-champ wrestler now out on parole after a ten-year stint in prison over the accidental death of a cop. With his best friend Jake (Devon Sawa) in over his head with a gangster looking to collect on debts owed, Dillon will be forced into a new regimen with a veteran trainer to take on Louisiana’s MMA-bred underground fight circuit, exposing a corrupt cop in the process.
The characters are written well with good acting to match and Chatham does a remarkable job next to his co-stars Sawa, and actress Sarah Butler who plays Chatham’s love interest. You also get some notable cameos along the way including by Kristofer Van Varenburg, and by Michael Jai White who chews it up some in several scenes of his own. Neal McDonough brings ferocity to his role as L.A. Jim – a former fighter himself who’s got some afflictions of his own with the industry on which he thrives, with a twist – as does Chris Browning as a crooked detective looking to capitalize off of making Dillion’s life a living hell.
You get the notion that most of the characters know each other, which comes with a story set in a small town. Complimenting the atmosphere of course is the entrenched appeal of mixed martial arts which is performed adequately by the cast, with stunt and fight scene exchanges by Danny Cosmo, and cinematographer Marco Fargnoli capturing it all with desired affect, with just a few scenes of gore sprinkled conservatively throughout key moments where the violence counts toward Chatham’s character development.
There’s at least one “joke” in this film that I would have advised against writing if I were involved, but you figure in the location and the overall culture and mindset, and you can reckon that it sort of tracks. Not that it’s a rectifying factor, and thankfully it’s not a dealbreaker in the overall scheme of things for The Philly Kid, which touts a strong, stripped-down fight thriller with hearty action, and a star in Chatham worth rooting for. Catch it on Digital where available, or on Prime as of this article.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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