Caution: This review contains spoilers.

 

A Film by Art Camacho

If the unthinkable happened to your child, how would you respond? Director Art Camacho compels his audience to explore that question in his new movie, Ruthless. Dermot Mulroney headlines the feature, starring as a high school wrestling coach with an unruffled exterior. Concealing a hard-nosed righteousness, Mulroney’s character, Harry Sumner, will force you to empathize with him and root for his vigilante antics that do more than attempt to settle a score for an unsufferable loss.

Motivated by an unspoken compulsion to wrestle with the loss of his teenage daughter, Mulroney’s Coach Harry, inspires empathy, agitation, and vengeance—emphatic concern for a distraught father; agitated disgust amid glimpses of a heinous underworld; and vengeful support of a grieving parent. The question becomes: Will this devoted father receive any relief from his anguish? Can there ever be deliverance from an unhealable wound that involves a child?

Meet the director, producers and writers

The multi-talented Art Camacho directs and produces the film which, as of this writing, is enjoying a #1 rise on Hulu’s TOP 10 chart.  With a 4th degree black belt in Wun Hop Kuen Do (a Chinese martial art), Camacho has been a student of film for decades, often beginning his day with the study of the art form through its history. With a fascination around old westerns, Camacho utilizes his knowledge as he creates beyond his director’s chair. (It’s hard to imagine him simply sitting in his seat given the level of action he oversees). And with Ruthless, he has brought another engaging, energized thriller to film that celebrates his lifelong training—which originated with the legendary Eric Lee when Camacho was a child.

With a collection of movies in his front pocket, shaped largely by his passion for Bruce Lee films and those influenced by them (Check out Chinatown Connection!), Camacho is well-versed in the action genre. You can find Camacho sharing much of his martial arts’ experiences, in front of and behind the camera, in his talk show, The Camacho Experiment. The show is the brainchild of Michael Matsuda — founder of the Martial Arts History Museum — James Dean Simington, and Camacho himself.

His latest project, Ruthless leans heavily on boxing—a combat modality that Camacho often incorporates into his fighting arts’ pictures. The movie benefits from scoring Dermot Mulroney as the lead. This fight-scene propelled production brings another tough-guy movie thriller to the mix. It complements Camacho’s impressive decades’ long high-energy film bio.

Art Camacho directs Dermot Mulroney during a boxing scene in their latest film, RUTHLESS.

Camacho also wrote the script along with James Dean Simington, Javier Reyna, and Koji Steven Sakai. With a notable list of executive producers, Niko Foster stands out not only for that role, but also for his portrayal of a central character in the film, Chuck—the detective who tries to reel in Mulroney’s extra-legal escapades.

Cast

Dermot Mulroney as Harry Sumner

Dermot Mulroney’s film history is extensive. Well-known for his rom-com roles, in movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding, August: Osage County, The Family Stone, and Anyone But You, Mulroney kicks butt in Ruthless. In it, this Gen-X favorite actor gives his fans a varietal treat. There’s no blandness resulting from casting according to type in this feature.

While many of his admirers love him in the types of roles he’s played opposite Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot’s personal film and series history is so extensive it’s difficult to pigeon-hole this actor into any singular prototype. In Ruthless, he leans into a gruff persona that reveals his ample ability to play a variety of roles whether in the 80’s action western, Young Guns, or the diabolical thriller, Breakwater.

In fact, Ruthless peppers Mulroney’s movie CV with a sharpness that demonstrates a range of artistic ability. Mulroney’s Harry Sumner achieves many plot goals with a humoristic undertone that does not disrupt the aim of the film, i.e., to find justice for another teenager suffering from a fate like that of his daughter.  Inadvertently involved in the life of a high school student under his guidance, Coach Harry comes to assume a father-like protective mentality as this feature’s throughline. In each of his featured scenes, Mulroney is a standout. And the few that move the plot without him leave you wondering what Dermot’s Harry will clean up next in this fast-moving hit.

Jeff Fahey as Dale Remington

Jeff Fahey — known for Lost, Wyatt Earp and Switch Up, et al — stars as the notorious character Dale Remington, a despicable human trafficking kingpin, posing as a wealthy hotelier and casino owner in Las Vegas. Fahey’s portrayal leaves viewers with a sense of his character’s cheesy decadence. It’s an impression that may make you consider a shower might be in order.

In other words, selecting Jeff Fahey for the role was another praiseworthy casting achievement for the film. Afterall, we are talking about a character who oversees the elaborate scheme to auction teenage girls to the highest bidder. Upon their first meeting — when it’s clear Dale is nothing short of a menace — viewers can’t help but hold their breath. Will this be Harry’s opportunity to clarify his presence in Dale’s disguised human auction house? Look forward to some memorable moments resulting from the Mulroney and Fahey character clashes!

Scene from RUTHLESS, (left to right of crew) Art Camacho, Dermot Mulroney, and Jeff Fahey

Mauricio Mendoza as Tom

Mauricio Mendoza plays Tom — the wretched boyfriend of Catia’s mom, played by Tonantzin Esparza. Mendoza’s Tom weaves in a comedic thread through his portrayal of an abusive, no-good boyfriend who corrals girls for cash in Los Angeles before they’re transported to Vegas for illegal human trade.

Dermot Mulroney & Mauricio Mendoza – scene in RUTHLESS

Humor works its way through the scenes Mendoza shares with Mulroney. As Camacho noted in a recent interview with Preston Downey, aka ‘That Phat Samuri’, scenes between Mulroney and Mendoza are nothing short of “twisted humor”.

A highly trained and accomplished performer, be sure to catch Mendoza in Oscuro Veneno, Shrapnel, and After School.

Tonantzin Esparza, Kessia Elwin, and Niko Foster (left to right)

Kessia Elwin as Linda

Kesia Elwin portrays Linda, a Las Vegas detective. She expertly takes on the coordination of an impromptu sting that a kick-ass vigilante, yet do-gooder wrestling coach, brings to town. In addition to this Ruthless casting, Elwin plays pivotal roles in Shrapnel and State of Consciousness.

Tonantzin Esparza as Jane

For her part, Tonantzin Esparza plays the role of Jane in Ruthless, the girlfriend to the vulgar and violent Tom. Esparza expresses a mother’s fierce love and anguish when confronted with her daughter’s kidnapping. When it counts, she rises to show the spirit of an emotionally tested mom. In the early 2000s, Esparza popularized the role of Marisol in the George Lopez sitcom.  You can also find Esparza in the 2022 film starring Tom Berenger, Black Warrant.

Melissa Diaz as Catia

Catia, played by Melissa Diaz, is the saucy teen on Coach’s wrestling team. Catia’s homelife sets up a scenario that beckons her coach to the rescue. Diaz plays the nuances of Catia exceptionally well. She inspires empathy for the disjointed lifestyle she’s forced to endure with her mother’s choice of an appalling live-in loser. Yet Diaz also plays a vulnerable teenage girl seeking praise and improvement in her chosen sport.

In a recent interview, Diaz notes that Ruthless is the most significant role she’s inked to date. Her other film roles include Failure! and Blowback.

Texas Battle as Martin

Texas Battle offers a strong performance in Ruthless revealing his boxing prowess. (With a name like Texas Battle you better have a few boxing scenes!) Battle jumps into the ring with Mulroney as Martin, Coach Harry’s sparring partner. Battle’s Martin goes toe-to-toe in a few noteworthy scenes with Mulroney’s Coach Harry.

Battle became one of daytime television’s “hottest hunks” with his character Marcus on The Bold and The Beautiful. He’s also found success with starring and recurring TV characters. His film roles have been plentiful with a prominent casting in the Samuel L. Jackson film, Coach Carter.

The wrap-up

Filmed in Las Vegas, this Camacho keepsake, Ruthless, kept me engaged and waiting for Mulroney to land the next jab and torque the next arm coil. The writers wrote, and the actors delivered, veiled humor — seeping through Coach Harry’s dialogue and notably amid his interplay with the vile Tom. For me, one of the best features of the movie is Camacho’s use of this comedic device to drive the film.

Speaking for more hesitant fight-scene lovers, the unexpected and subtle wit is like a butter knife that slices the hard-hitting exhibitions into digestible, tasty morsels. To be sure, each melee inspires a hunger for the next fisticuffs’ nibble. Ruthless is a satisfying and memorable Camacho film that will satiate the anguish the movie sets in motion.

I’m certain Mulroney unleashed a surprise to the delight of his loyal audience, one knockout at a time, with his combative talents. In the process, I’ll bet he gained some new fans who respect his pugnacious hidden gifts. For those who remain rom-com uninitiated, it might be time watch Dermot Mulroney work his romantic-comedy magic far from the boxing ring. The always captivating Julia Roberts and Mulroney in My Best Friend’s Wedding, should do the trick — especially if a rumored sequel to the fan-fave movie becomes reality.

RUTHLESS earns three (out of 3) spotlights.

Stream RUTHLESS today on Apple TV, Hulu, and Amazon Prime!

Unleashed Anguish — A Review of RUTHLESS
Written by María Felicia Kelley @1mariafelicia, 3 May 2024
Writer, Publisher, EP – SoCal Spotlight
we.shine@socalspotlight.biz
Copyright © 2024 María Felicia Kelley | Circle7531, LLC

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