Violence in films and shows has existed since the invention of the audio-visual medium. Some of the greatest pieces of entertainment are extensive commentaries on the nature of violence, while others exaggerate fights of various kinds to such an extent that they become enjoyable. And this phenomenon has always been seen as a major factor when it comes to violence in real life. Is there any truth to it? Yes and no. Propaganda films have famously fanned the flames of discrimination and bigotry throughout history, thereby leading to large-scale violence. Meanwhile, films that aren’t made with hate don’t lead to anything catastrophic. If it does, it’s usually coincidental and not indicative of a societal issue. In more ways than one, Miguel Wants To Fight grapples with all of these notions while being a wholesome and incredibly fun coming-of-age story.
Oz Rodriguez’s Miguel Wants To Fight, which has been written by Jason Concepcion and Shea Serrano, tells the story of Miguel. He is a massive fan of action movies, and he loves to make anime-inspired shorts with his friends, David, Cass, and Srini. One day, while playing basketball, Srini gets into a fight. In order to support him, David and Cass jump in. But Miguel hangs back because he doesn’t want to fight. He is jokingly bullied by his friends for having such a non-confrontational attitude while living in an area like Syracuse that is a hub of boxing. Miguel’s father, Alberto, runs a boxing gym. David’s father was a legendary boxer. Cass is a regular member at Alberto’s gym, and she’s proficient when it comes to throwing punches. Now, this isn’t technically a big issue. However, when Miguel’s mother, Lydia, announces that they have to move to Albany within a week, Miguel feels he has a limited amount of time on his hands to prove his worth to his friends.
If you have watched Fight Club, I’m sure you’ll remember that one lesson where Tyler Durden tells his disciples to go and be mean so that they can get into a fight. Yes, Miguel Wants To Fight is essentially that little lesson stretched into a whole movie, and I mean that in a positive way, as it analyzes why someone wants to get into a fight with a stranger. It’s one thing when there’s a cause, and you have to react to it. It’s a totally different thing when you associate the act of fighting with being masculine or the hallmark of being a “good friend.” And no, I’m not talking about the inevitable nature of war (which is caused by men who can’t communicate) or pushing back against abuse (which is also caused by insecure men). In those cases, fighting is necessary. I’m talking about daily altercations that can be solved in a non-violent fashion. Yet you’ll find people doing the exact opposite and then justifying their actions because it allows them to release the frustration caused by their unresolved issues.
Talking about “release,” fictional violence exists to underscore the very real pain it causes while giving us a sense of catharsis so that we don’t go searching for it in real life. Personally speaking, I love all of the films and shows that Miguel has watched or references, i.e., Enter the Dragon, The Matrix, Kung Fu Hustle, Police Story, Kill Bill, The Night Comes for Us, The Raid: Redemption, John Wick, Rurouni Kenshin, Akira, Ong Bak 2, and One Punch Man. I watched countless violent films growing up. Am I a violent individual, or do I think about violent actions on a daily basis? No. In fact, I believe that if ten people are thinking about violence, for whatever reason, there should be at least one person who says otherwise. But that shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness or subservience. Instead, it should be seen as an important and necessary attribute in a person, especially during these polarizing times. And I love the fact that Miguel Wants To Fight comes to this exact conclusion by drawing a thick line between fictional violence and violence in real life.
Miguel Wants To Fight has some of the most creative visuals I’ve seen in such a small-scale dramedy. Oz Rodriguez, cinematographer Diana Matos, editor Daniel Reitzenstein, the stunt teams, the VFX teams, and every single individual and department in charge of what’s happening visually have truly gone above and beyond to make the action-heavy moments pop. The context is that every time Miguel’s friends tell him to visualize his fighting strategy, he takes inspiration from films. For the first fight, he takes cues from both Game of Death and Enter the Dragon. For the second fight, the film reimagines the Dojo fight between Morpheus and Neo by setting it on the school’s basketball court. There’s one that has echoes of The Raid and M:I: Fallout‘s bathroom action scene. But it’s the anime sequence that takes the cake. It is about one minute long, but it’s impressive enough to leave a lasting impression. However, what truly makes it all feel so cohesive is Oz’s sense of tone. He genuinely makes an effort to transport us to our schooling days and wonder how we used to view the world and our relationships, and it works. I mean, if you can’t see yourself or your friends in that cast, you are doing something wrong.
Talking about the cast, every single performance in Miguel Wants To Fight is spectacular. Tyler Dean Flores effortlessly essays Miguel’s dilemma, insecurities, and the love that he has for his friends. He speaks so much through his body language, and even though the fight sequences are technically imaginary in nature, Flores has the potential to be a great action star if he wants. Christian Vunipola exudes big-brother energy. His chemistry with Flores is so palpable that it makes you wish that nothing came between Miguel and David. Imani Lewis’s upbeat vibes are legitimately infectious. Some of the reactions that she gives while she’s in the background are hilarious. Lewis also has the potential to be an action star. Suraj Partha casually obliterates so many stereotypes that are associated with Indian characters. He is charming, funny, and a little romantic as well. Raúl Castillo is really good, and his final interaction with Flores is so wholesome. Although they don’t have a lot of screen time, Sarunas J. Jackson, Dascha Polanco, and Andrea Navedo deliver memorable performances. All those who play Miguel’s foes deserve a round of applause each, with Juan Abdias being a clear highlight.
The only piece of criticism that I can level against Miguel Wants To Fight is that it goes by a little too fast, and that doesn’t exactly allow Miguel’s mother to get a sizable chunk of the spotlight, especially since she’s the one who gets the ball rolling. Apart from that, it’s a great film. It is steeped in Latino culture—Puerto Rican, to be specific—with a hint of Black and Indian cultures. I love how much of it takes place in a school, and the interactions are so teen-appropriate without being condescending or kid-friendly. I say that because most films and shows “geared” towards teenagers don’t represent them properly or set some obscene standards for them to live by in the name of being introspective about teen life. I love everything it has to say about violence in real life and the media. I love its action sequences. I love the cast. If you want to do a double or triple feature, I think you can pair this film up with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and/or Chang Can Dunk. However, its all we think about this and therefore we urge you to watch Miguel Wants To Fight on Hulu, form your own opinion, and feel free to share it with us.