Dillon the Championship College Wrestler (Wes Chatham), his gambling addicted friend Jake (Devon Sawa) and another friend who we won’t need to concern ourselves with in about three or so minutes are out one evening trying to round up some brewskis, when some undesirables try to liberate one of these young men from their wallet. Dillon stops that, but unfortunately he kills a guy in the process with the whole scenario going straight to hell ending with a dead cop, a dead friend, another friend with a bullet in his back and Dillon pulling a ten year stretch. Dillon, once known as ‘The Philly Kid’, I guess because he’s from Philadelphia… I guess… because I don’t know if they told us or not, is now just an ex con trying to make his way.
Back in the world Dillon has reconnected with Jake, who also pulled some years from the events of that horrible night, and Jake has a plan. While Dillon was on ice, this little thing called Mixed Martial Arts fighting has taken off and Jake thinks Dillon and his once amazing skills would be a perfect fit. Dillon won’t have anything to do with that, more than content to work at the back of Uncle Lenny’s liquor store and get evil looks from Jake's medical student sister Amy (Sarah Butler), as if it was Dillon’s fault that some guys tried to rob them ten years ago. But while Dillon wants no part of the fight game, after Jake gets rounded up by the scurrilous Ace (Lucky Johnson), who requires remuneration from Jake for his unpaid gambling debts, Dillon promises Ace three fights to get everything square.
Fine. Dillon takes the first fight and decimates the guy which has gotten him the attention of top trainer L.A. Jim (Neil McDonough) who thinks he can make Dillon a champion. That’s cool, and right now things aren’t so bad in Dillon’s life since he does like to fight a little bit and Amy has stopped giving him the stink-eye, changing over to the googly eye.
Still there are issues. Jake is still gambling like a lunatic, there is a cop out there (Chris Browning) who has hated Dillon ever since his partner got shot ten years ago, and he’s
a principle member in this fight game, and then there’s the ringleader of this fight game (Michael Jai White) who has informed L.A. Jim of certain things that need to happen if his boy is going to progress. Apparently years ago LA Jim wasn’t down with this sort action, now LA Jim walks with a cane. He knows what’s up.
A bunch of stuff happens, some of it tragic in nature, but eventually it’s going to come down to a big fight with everything on the line with one whackjob of a cop in the distance threatening lives while betting the house on the wrong guy to win.
So with ‘The Philly Kid’ we have finished our appraisals of After Dark studio’s foray into the action genre, an exploration which has yielded a mixed bag of stuff to be sure. ‘Transit’ was probably the best of the five action movies in my opinion but I think I’d place director Jason Connery’s ‘The Philly Kid’ in the number two spot.
This isn’t to say that ‘The Philly Kid’ is a particularly good movie because the truth of the matter is that none of the five movies blew the doors off of anything, nor is at a bad movie, but it is safe movie. Tried and true. Generic. Run of the mill. A sports movie centered on the fight game that adheres to the genre almost to a fault.
Down on his luck tough guy… Rocky… Best friend of questionable ethics… Pauley… with a sister he loves… Adrian… and a doomed trainer… Mickey… with an arch enemy whose an ass needs kicking. Pick one. But while the Philly Kid doesn’t do much to surprise us, at least it does its best to competently entertain us while not surprising us. I don’t know if star Wes Chatham can really fight but he sure is plenty athletic. That thing he did climbing those ropes with just his arms was damned impressive. Unless it was CGI. The fight sequences were well choreographed and came off as authentic, and since the story was so generic the actors just had to fill slots as opposed to give real fleshed out performances, but they filled these slots admirably. And while Michael Jai White’s role in this movie was little more than a cameo, he made it through this entire movie without taking his shirt off. That might be a first.
‘The Philly Kid’ is not a bad watch, not at all, and while it sticks to convention at least it sticks to convention competently and it does so swiftly. We like it when movies take chances, but usually only when they take chances and it works. This one doesn’t take any chances, oh good heavens no, but it still works.