Mike (RJ Mitte, Breaking Bad), a teen with Cerebral Palsy, starts his senior year of high school with one goal in mind: join the wrestling team. Despite the objections of everyone in his life, Mike sets on his course to not only prove everyone that they are wrong, but also prove to himself that he is right.
I was worried walking into this film because of the obvious potential for another case of an actor without a disability cast in a role that they weren’t meant to play. Much to my surprise, this was not the case. RJ Mitte, who plays the lead role, is an actor who also has Cerebral Palsy and is able to encapsulate, what I assume, to be what it really is like to live with the disability. His performance is touching and genuine and you’ll be hard-pressed to come across anyone who doesn’t at least tear-up during some of his more emotional scenes.
Part of why this may mesh so well is because the film itself is based on the life of Michael D. Coffey who ended up writing the script. The relationship between the main characters are raw, emotional, and despite what I initially thought, made me invested to see how the story would end. ‘Heart’ is the biggest strength with this film.
Unfortunately, those are really the only ‘good’ things Triumph has going for it. While it’s always a treat to have Terrence Howard be a part of any film (expect a lot of tears from him), the rest of the cast are very one-note, despite their best efforts. Colton Haynes (Arrow), who we haven’t seen on the big screen in some time, is charming but stereotypical as the star-athlete-super nice guy, Jeff. Johnathon Schaech (Ray Donovan, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) while charming, plays Mike’s caring yet “I just don’t want to see you get hurt” type father and only really shows up to give Mike a reason to keep chasing his dream. Simply put, there is just no character development outside of Howard’s Coach.
While it’s great that Coffey was given the chance to write about his life, the script would have benefited by an editor or co-writer who could have helped cohesively tell the story for a mainstream audience rather than having it play out as quick, non-cohesive memories ripped from a diary. Perhaps this wouldn’t have played out so jarring had the film editing been better but after the first act it starts to feel like a group project where bits and pieces of work was done and slapped together last minute with fade to blacks because they ran out of time. By the end, I really did have to fight constantly rolling my eyes by how bad it got.
It’s a shame that Triumph was littered with so many behind the scene issues (writing, editing) because there was real promise here. Even though the end became almost hard to watch, I found myself sticking around because I really did care to see how Mike’s wrestling story would end. I emotionally resonated with him at points because of my own high school experiences and really was interested to know more about Cerebral Palsy itself because it’s not explored enough in main stream entertainment. It’s just unfortunate the structure of the film couldn’t support the large amount of heart it had to share.
Signature Entertainment presents Triumph on Digital Platforms starting 28th June
Review – Triumph
Reviewed online (screener provided by Signature Entertainment), June 20, 2021. Rating: 12 Cert. Running Time: 100 minutes
PRODUCTION: (UK) Signature Entertainment presents a Digital Ignition Entertainment production in association with Argonaut Entertainment Partners. Producers: Michael Clofine, Michael D. Coffey, and Massimiliano Musina. Executive Producers: Chet Burros, Phillip Dawe, Mike Hatton, Terrence Howard, Tyler W. Konney, Jean Michael Lif, RJ Mitte, Victor Poteet, Jessica Uberuaga, and Paolo Vismara.
CREW: Director: Brett Leonard. Writer: Michael D. Coffey. Editing: Kevin Hickman. Music: Gregg Leonard.
CAST: Terrence Howard, RJ Mitte, Colton Haynes, Johnathon Schaech, Grace Victoria Cox