Most boxing films seem to follow a similar narrative. Raw amateur fighter seeking redemption gets trained by a washed up former pro to take on a champion that he in no way is ready for and should not be fighting. Oh, you can’t forget the training montages as there are a couple in Sambá. While falling victim to a plot that you have seen before, the film still tries to shake some things up.
Francisco “Cisco” Castillo arrives home to the Dominican Republic after 15 years in prison. He wants to try and get his life back on track. He tries to find a job and reconnect with his son. When all that fails he resorts to underground fighting where he catches the eye of Nichi, a former Italian boxing champ. Nichi decides to train him and help them both make some money to help pay some of his own gambling debts.
Where Sambá shines, is the way it tells the narrative in the first half of the film. The dialogue isn’t overbearing with exposition and the viewer has to extrapolate from the visual story-telling. However, in the second half you can’t always infer what the writer was going for and consequently, you are left with too many questions and not enough answers.
Sambá also excelled in making me interested in the characters and hoping these characters could succeed against, what have been up to this point, difficult circumstances. While Cisco was away his mother and son had a hard time and you wanted to root for them. I liked that the film also showed what the son was going through and how he fell in with the wrong crowd. It certainly helped humanize not only him, but his family as well.
I appreciate what the filmmakers were going for with the way the movie ended but the execution was way off. They tried to portray Cisco as some sort of “Rocky I want it more than the other guy type” but they had never shown that character trait until the end. It felt cheap and didn’t fit the overall theme of the film by either his character or Nichi.
Sambá Final Thoughts: 3/5
While Sambá was slightly predictable, it still had a lot going for it in the beginning. I really enjoyed the visual story-telling and lack of exposition. Unfortunately in the end, that didn’t hold up quite the same. It’s probably a better straight drama than it is a boxing/sports film as there were a lot of other aspects to the story. I think it’s worth a rental for those interested, as long as you go in with tempered expectations.
Digital Platforms: iTunes, Google, Xbox, Amazon
Note: This film was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.