Bolo is a punch used by boxers — a wide, sweeping uppercut. It also is the title of Fall Films’ latest local production. We recommend skipping the former and taking the latter.
With free beer from Titswiggle Brewing Co. and live music beforehand from local harpist Jessica Tate, Bolo premieres Saturday at City Arts Center.
Writer/director Mickey Reece has tackled the sports drama before in 2011’s Walrus. Whereas that black-and-white film was set in the world of underground arm wrestling, this color effort plays in the pro-boxing sandbox. And whereas that film took some decidedly weird turns into sci-fi territory, this one opts for a more comedic path.
If it’s not quite a cinematic KO, it’s dangerously close.
Jacob Ryan Snovel takes the lead as Nicolas O’Malley, an Irishman toiling in the game of American sports management. When his prized client takes an irrecoverable punch to the noggin, O’Malley finds himself without a contender for an upcoming title bout. Refusing to cancel the fight, slimy-scary promoter Tito Pizetti (Danny Marroquin) orders O’Malley to retrieve a fighter from Ireland, lest he find himself on the receiving end of Tito’s bodyguard’s hammer.
Reluctantly returning to his homeland for the first time in 10 years, O’Malley reunites with his cancerstricken mother (Brenda Stacy), looks up an old girlfriend (Rebecca Cox) and pursues a contract with Mickey “The Banshee” McMurphy (Mason Giles). That bare-knuckler brawler possesses southpaw power, a handlebar mustache and four simultaneously pregnant bearers of his seed, whose dynamic will remind moviegoers of The Fighter’s sisterly cabal.
The story may be nothing special — in fact, with an offhand comment by Cox’s character, you can guess the ending right away — but it’s the hour of getting there that is. A couple of twists arrive with no warning — one from our “hero” may generate serious unease — leaving viewers on the hook to follow each step and Scorsese zoom.
Straddling the genres of comedy and drama, Bolo finds Reece and company at arguably their most ambitious: trying to pass off Oklahoma City as Ireland. A title card admits their $1,000 budget can carry that illusion only so far, so it’s up to the actors to sell it; luckily, O’Malley, Giles and Cox rise to the challenge.
The filmmakers continue to amaze me with the panache they’re able to achieve — not just on so little funding, but at such a prolific speed; Bolo marks Fall Films’ fourth feature to premiere within the last year, following Knights of Malice, Mickey and Me and A Destructive Manner. Any puts your completed to-do list to shame. —Rod Lott