By: Charlie Lott, Columnist
Yes, I am reviewing a documentary. Before you question the likelihood of any self-respecting college student paying good money to watch a documentary, let me ask you this: has any documentary before this one featured fighting, swearing and a lead as flamboyantly cocky and arrogant as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter-turned boxer Conor McGregor? I didn’t think so.
McGregor is made for the big screen. He loves fast cars and garish clothes almost as much as he loves making fun of his competitors before beating them to a pulp. But where this movie really hits its stride is by showing the infamous bully’s lesser-known tender side. He started out as an unassuming plumber in his home country of Ireland and his fighting career to-date has largely been fueled by his longtime girlfriend and biggest fan, Dee Devlin.
Many hate Conor McGregor because he comes across as a total jerk and he wins a lot, which are two qualities that are not particularly attractive for the casual fan. “The Notorious” opens with a scene that exemplifies his boisterous, showboating side, McGregor bouncing and dancing to loud music in the back of a fancy car on his way to either a fight or some celebrity event. But an abrupt transition quickly brings us back to where the film really makes its money: the humble beginnings of a now-world renowned superstar.
It is amazing the amount of footage McGregor filmed when he was first starting out. Powerful stories about living on the brink of poverty and struggling to support himself and Devlin are intercut with his early training, a la Rocky Balboa, of hours and hours spent sweating alone in a gym while working as a plumber to earn his keep. The craziest part about these scenes is the idea that only a few years ago, you could have been living in Ireland and had one of the most dangerous men in the world cleaning out your sink.
Cut abruptly to his first professional fight in Ireland. This is where the film loses me a little bit, because after so much behind-the-scenes training footage, there is a limited amount of video evidence of McGregor’s early fights. The movie transitions in a blur from his days of training to his first professional fight to his first fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as aMMA specialist.
From there, the blur only gets more drawn out. The fight after fight, knockout after knockout make the movie fun for those who are reminiscing about his many title fights and the other big moments in his career, but for the casual fan or the moviegoer who just wanted to learn a little more about one of the biggest names in sports, the quick action sequences leave something more to be desired.
The buildup was beautiful, and a lot of those same stories carry on throughout. McGregor at the birth of his first son with Devlin is a touching moment that cuts away far too quickly to another bout. Injuries and losses that went unreported to the media give the image of a man whose crazy eyes and swear-filled rants are a mere facade for the committed family man and hard working competitor behind the scenes. The problem is that the movie serves only to reinforce that facade, focusing more and more on his biggest fights and the moments that we already know about and have already seen, like his match against Nate Diaz or his foray into boxing against Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
Conor is what makes the film worthwhile even during these whirlwind sequences. The dude is made for the big screen, forever strutting his stuff, cracking jokes and egging on everybody around him. It is like if you took the quick wit of a stand-up comedian and the personality of a well-known rapper and put it in the body of a professional fighter. You cannot take your eyes off him, because you never know what’s going to happen next.
This movie probably is not for people who do not know much about McGregor, and it is definitely not for people who don’t like fight sports. But if you come into it with some background knowledge and a thick skin, it is a solid film. Sure, it is a documentary, but it is also the passionate story of one hilarious Irishman.