“Blackbear” opens as a not-quite-convincing Marine snipers captured in Afghanistan thriller and transitions to a melodramatic mixed martial arts “I gotta fight to pay for my buddy’s VA care” tale.
Taliban fighters (dressed as ISIS, but in the Shati-Kot Valley of Afghanistan) speak in the lurid, verbose threats of Bond villains.
“You cannot die too soon. You would ruin our FUN” and “my EXPERIMENT,” the torturer sneers. He injects our captured sniper team, Bear and Cowboy (Scott Pryor, who also scripted this, and Darrin Dewitt Henson). This is the GOOD stuff, he purrs.
She will be your greatest lover…and your WORST enemy. Your love for her will never go away!”
So even escaping from the captors won’t be enough. Months later, Cowboy is still in the hospital, suffering from a slow poisoning of that day. He needs to get on an experiemental treatment program, or he’ll die.
Bear? He’s using, sleeping on the streets, trying to pick up with the girlfriend he ditched years ago (Sara McMann), hoping to make up with her dad at least.
Because “Dad” is Coach Bronx, played with his usual relish…and chili, onions, mustard and ketchup — ALL the fixin’s — by Eric Roberts. Coach was Bear’s mixed martial arts coach. And he won’t train him again. He won’t. Nope.
“You can’t be SERIOUS about fighting again!”
Bear needs the cash from underground cage matches to save Cowboy. He’s got to get clean, get back into shape and get out there in The Basement, where the off-the-book brawls are staged.
He’s got to WIN, you understand me? Or throw the fights when the need arises!
The scenario is pro forma, the dialogue trite and the fights often staged at walk-through speed. Some of the performances are achingly amateurish.
As we’ve seen a version of Afghanistan that has hardwood live oaks and scrub pines and looks like South Carolina, we shouldn’t have gotten our hopes up.
The picture was originally titled “Submission,” which makes more sense. That’s what happens when you’re about to choke out, or give in to a higher power to save your friend.
“Blackbear” is the white guy. “Cowboy” is the black Marine. They went with those nicknames just to dodge stereotypes?
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, substance abuse
Credits: Directed by J.M. Berrios, script by Scott Pryor. A Gravitas Ventures/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:34