Haymaker (2021)

After saving her, a former Muay Thai fighter becomes a singer’s bodyguard. Through the process, he gets to see a new way of life and goes back to his roots to truly find himself.

Written and directed by its lead star Nick Sasso, Haymaker is a film that is sold as a Muay Thai film, but the story feels much more about the singer, Nomi, and about Nick’s relationship with her. The film is a slow moving one that gives plenty of time for the lead, and the viewer, to think and absorb its story, the characters’ arcs and plights, and just about anything in the film around that. What it does not feel like however, is a Muay Thai film, in no way like the usual manner these types of films usually go. This may be due to her screen presence, her magnetism, and/or her performance, but Nomi feels like the real center of the film, the real lead, the one that the viewers will connect with and want to see more of. The character of Nick has his own arc, but there is something about Nomi that makes her shine brighter and be the real center of attention every time she’s on screen.

The cast is lef by writer/director Nick Sasso and his performance is one that is understated to say the least, but it works for a character who is a bit lost in his own life, looking for his way and himself. It works, but it also lets Nomi Ruiz shine bright as can be as Nomi, the singer who he becomes connected to in more than just a bodyguard way. She gives his character something new in his life and gives him a way of realizing himself. In doing so, actress/singer Nomi Ruiz is the best part of this movie. Her presence is, as mentioned above, magnetic. She’s fantastic here and just keeps all eyes on her with her ways and how she acts. Her presence is what makes the film a must see. Of course, there are other cast members including Zoë Bell and Udo Kier who are both always fun to see in movies and the same can be said here.

The film has a look that is good for its story with some sequences being particularly stunning, for example the parts in Greece and some of the scenes in Thailand. This is thanks to the cinematography of Brent Johnson who frames and moves the camera in just the right way. Those sequences of Nomi singing are perfect and the training sequences are shot in a way that makes them fit in the rest of the film (which once again does not feel like a Muay Thai film). It’s a good look and it makes the film easy to watch.

Haymaker is a slow moving film that doesn’t feel like it’s about the lead character that is expected from its synopsis. The film is an interesting watch and Nomi Ruiz makes the film, she’s just amazing here and magnetic as any other major star. If seeing the film is unsure, watch it for her.

“Haymaker” will be out in theaters and VOD on January 29th, 2021 from Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight.