2022 American Music Awards: Taylor Swift is the top winner

November 20, 2022

The following is a press release from ABC:

Taylor Swift at the 2022 American Music Awards at the the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Nvoember 20, 2022 (Photo courtesy of ABC)

Taylor Swift broke her own record of the most wins of any artist in the history of the American Music Awards Sunday night by clinching the top spot in the winner’s circle with six wins at the “2022 American Music Awards” (AMAs), to bring her total count to 40 wins. The year’s hottest night in music represents top achievements in music determined by the fans, for the fans. Hosted by Wayne Brady, the thrilling evening filled with world premiere performances and pop-culture moments aired live on ABC from the Microsoft Theater at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles.

Show highlights included the following:

  •  Eight-time AMA nominee P!NK skated in from the streets of Los Angeles for an epic start to the AMAs, opening the show with a powerful world premiere performance of her brand-new single “Never Gonna Not Dance Again.” She later graced the stage for a moving and powerful performance of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” dedicated to the inspirational life and career of 10-time AMA winner Olivia Newton-John.
  • This year’s AMA host Wayne Brady bantered with the audience, singing about how he prepared to host the AMAs in his opening monologue. Brady also tapped into his “Dancing With The Stars” skills to perform a number alongside his current DWTS partner, Witney Carson. Later in the show, Brady tapped into members of his audience including Niecy Nash-Betts for a random selection of words, which he used to improvise a rap on stage.
  • Two-time nominee Bebe Rexha made her U.S. television performance debut of her global smash hit “I’m Good (Blue)” in an out of this world futuristic performance.
  • Global superstar and Favorite Female Latin Artist winner Anitta made her AMAs stage debut with her smash hit “Envolver” and was joined by two-time AMA winner Missy Elliott who surprised fans hitting the stage to join Anitta for “Lobby.” The two danced through a hotel lobby celebrating the first-ever performance of their smash hit.
  • Country superstar, 17-time AMA winner and all-time Favorite Country Album record-holder Carrie Underwood flew through the theater on a neon orb to the stage to perform her hittrack “Crazy Angels.”
  • First-time nominee GloRilla made her AMAs stage debut with a surprise performance alongside last year’s AMA host Cardi B for their hit “Tomorrow 2.”
  • Imagine Dragons hit the stage for a fiery performance, singing a medley of their hits including “Bones.” The band was later joined by Atlanta rapper J.I.D. for a striking performance of their duo hit “Enemy.”
  • Multiplatinum rapper Lil Baby performed a medley of his smash hits “California Breeze” and “In a Minute” in a suave performance on the AMAs stage.
  • Artist, songwriter and actor Yola took the stage to perform her powerful original song “Break the Bough,” named the American Music Awards SONG OF SOUL, a spotlight moment that highlights an artist that uses music to invoke social change. Yola’s colorful performance showcased her vocal abilities and star power.
  • New Artist of the Year winner Dove Cameron made her AMAs stage debut in a theatrical performance of her hit single “Boyfriend.”
  • Presented by longtime friend Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie received his 18th AMA award with the prestigious Icon Award. Later in the evening, stars joined together to honor Richie with tribute performances, including two-time AMA winner Stevie Wonder and two-time AMA nominee Charlie Puth,who performed a medley of Richie’s hit songs complete with dueling pianos and scat singing.
  • Superstars Jimmie Allen, Ari Lennox, Yola, Muni Long, Melissa Ethridge, Dustin Lynch, and Smokey Robinson joined Wonder and Puth on the stage for an epic surprise recreation of the 1986 AMAs performance of “We Are The World,” a nostalgic highlight of the evening with Lionel joining the group on stage.
  • Adding the musical connectivity to a night filled with superstar performances, tributes and pop culture moments, iconic DJ, producer/rapper and philanthropist D-Nice was the resident 2022 AMAs House DJ.
  • In tribute to the life and career of Loretta Lynn, country star Jimmie Allen took the stage for a quick rendition of one of her greatest hits.
  • Host Wayne Brady led a moment of tribute to the late rapper Takeoff, speaking to his life, career and success in the music industry.

Winner Highlights of the “2022 American Music Awards”:

  • Taylor Swift broke her own record with six AMA wins, making the 40-time winner the most decorated artist in AMAs history. Her album “Red (Taylor’s Version)” earned the awards for Favorite Country Album, Favorite Pop Album and Favorite Music Video, while Swift also won Favorite Female Pop Artist, Favorite Female Country Artist and Artist of the Year. In 2013, Swift won the AMA for Favorite Country Album for the first version of her album “Red.”
  • Last year’s Artist of the Year winners BTS took home two AMAs this year, including the first-ever AMA for Favorite K-Pop Artist.
  • Six-time nominee this year Beyoncé won two awards tonight for Favorite Female R&B Artist and Favorite R&B Album for her latest album, “Renaissance.”
  • Ghost took home the first-ever AMA for Favorite Rock Album for their latest album “Impera.”
  • This year’s most-nominated artist, Bad Bunny, took home two AMAs for Favorite Male Latin Artist, Favorite Latin Album for “Un Verano Sin Ti.”
  • Elton John won his first AMA since 1998 for Collaboration of the Year for his hit “Cold Heart – PNAU Remix” with Dua Lipa.
    First-time AMA nominee Dove Cameron took home this year’s New Artist of the Year award.
  • Anitta, a first-time nominee this year, won the AMA for Favorite Female Latin Artist.

Presenters throughout the night included Dan + Shay, Dustin Lynch, Ellie Goulding, Jessie James Decker, Jimmie Allen, Karrueche Tran, Kelly Rowland, Kim Petras, Liza Koshy, Latto, Meghan Trainor, Melissa Etheridge, Niecy Nash-Betts, Roselyn Sanchez, Sabrina Carpenter, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Smokey Robinson.

Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift
New Artist of the Year: Dove Cameron
Collaboration of the Year: Elton John & Dua Lipa “Cold Heart – PNAU Remix”
Favorite Touring Artist: Coldplay
Favorite Music Video: Taylor Swift “All Too Well: The Short Film”
Favorite Male Pop Artist: Harry Styles
Favorite Female Pop Artist: Taylor Swift
Favorite Pop Duo or Group: BTS
Favorite Pop Album: Taylor Swift “Red (Taylor’s Version)”
Favorite Pop Song: Harry Styles “As It Was”
Favorite Male Country Artist: Morgan Wallen
Favorite Female Country Artist: Taylor Swift
Favorite Country Duo or Group: Dan + Shay
Favorite Country Album: Taylor Swift “Red (Taylor’s Version)”
Favorite Country Song: Morgan Wallen “Wasted on You”
Favorite Male Hip-Hop Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Favorite Female Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
Favorite Hip-Hop Album: Kendrick Lamar “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”
Favorite Hip-Hop Song: Future ft. Drake & Tems “WAIT FOR U”
Favorite Male R&B Artist: Chris Brown
Favorite Female R&B Artist: Beyoncé
Favorite R&B Album: Beyoncé “Renaissance”
Favorite R&B Song: Wizkid ft. Tems “Essence”
Favorite Male Latin Artist: Bad Bunny
Favorite Female Latin Artist: Anitta
Favorite Latin Duo or Group: Yahritza Y Su Esencia
Favorite Latin Album: Bad Bunny “Un Verano Sin Ti”
Favorite Latin Song: Sebastián Yatra “Dos Oruguitas”
Favorite Rock Artist: Machine Gun Kelly
Favorite Rock Song (NEW): Måneskin “Beggin’”
Favorite Rock Album (NEW): Ghost “Impera”
Favorite Inspirational Artist: for KING & COUNTRY
Favorite Gospel Artist: Tamela Mann
Favorite Dance/Electronic Artist: Marshmello
Favorite Soundtrack: “ELVIS”
Favorite Afrobeats Artist (NEW): Wizkid
Favorite K-Pop Artist (NEW): BTS

Taylor Swift (6): Artist of the Year, Favorite Music Video, Favorite Female Pop Artist, Favorite Pop Album,  Favorite Female Country Artist, Favorite Country Album
Bad Bunny (2): Favorite Male Latin Artist, Favorite Latin Album
Beyonce (2): Favorite Female R&B Artist, Favorite R&B Album
BTS (2): Favorite Pop Duo or Group, Favorite K-Pop Artist
Harry Styles (2): Favorite Male Pop Artist, Favorite Pop Song
Kendrick Lamar (2): Favorite Male Hip-Hop Artist, Favorite Hip-Hop Album
Morgan Wallen (2): Favorite Male Country Artist, Favorite Country Song
Tems (2): Favorite Hip-Hop Song, Favorite R&B Song
Wizkid (2): Favorite R&B Song, Favorite Afrobeats Artist (NEW)
Anitta (1): Favorite Female Latin Artist
Chris Brown (1): Favorite Male R&B Artist
Coldplay (1): Favorite Touring Artist
Dan + Shay (1): Favorite Country Duo or Group
Dove Cameron (1): New Artist of the Year
Drake (1): Favorite Hip-Hop Song
Dua Lipa (1): Collaboration of the Year
Elton John (1): Collaboration of the Year
“ELVIS” (1): Favorite Soundtrack
for KING & COUNTRY (1):Favorite Inspirational Artist
Future (1): Favorite Hip-Hop Song
Ghost (1): Favorite Rock Album (NEW)
Machine Gun Kelly (1):Favorite Rock Artist
Måneskin (1): Favorite Rock Song (NEW)
Marshmello (1): Favorite Dance/Electronic Artist
Nicki Minaj (1): Favorite Female Hip-Hop Artist
Sebastián Yatra  (1): Favorite Latin Song
Tamela Mann (1): Favorite Gospel Artist
Yahritza Y Su Esencia (1): Favorite Latin Duo or Group

About the “2022 American Music Awards”:

  • The AMAs represents the year’s top achievements in music determined by the fans, for the fans. Last year’s show stands as the most social telecast of 2021 with 46.5 million interactions, underscoring the role fans play in the annual event. A vibrant night of non-stop music, the AMAs features a powerful lineup featuring first-time collaborations and exclusive world premiere performances from music’s biggest names – from Pop to Rap, R&B to Country, Latin to K-Pop – and more, as well as memorable moments that live on in pop culture.
  • As the world’s largest fan-voted awards show, the AMAs air globally across a footprint of linear and digital platforms in more than 120 countries and territories.
  • The “2022 American Music Awards” winners are voted entirely by fans.Nominees are based on key fan interactions – as reflected on the Billboard charts – including streaming, album and song sales, radio airplay, and tour grosses. These measurements are tracked by Billboard and its data partner Luminate, and cover the eligibility period of Sept. 24, 2021, through Sept. 22, 2022.
  • Airing live on ABC, the “2022 American Music Awards” are produced by dick clark productions and Jesse Collins Entertainment. Jesse Collins is showrunner and executive producer. Dionne Harmon, Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, and Larry Klein are also executive producers. For the latest AMA news, exclusive content and more, follow the AMAs on social (FacebookTwitterInstagramTikTokSnapchat and YouTube), online at theamas.com and ABC.com, and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #AMAs.

dick clark productions is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the “Streamy Awards.” dick clark productions owns one of the world’s most extensive and unique entertainment archive libraries with more than 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. For more information please visit www.dickclark.com.

ABC Entertainment’s compelling programming includes “Grey’s Anatomy,” the longest-running medical drama in primetime television; ratings juggernaut “The Bachelor” franchise; riveting dramas “Big Sky,” “The Good Doctor,” “A Million Little Things,” “The Rookie” and “Station 19”; trailblazing comedies “Abbott Elementary,” “The Conners,” “The Goldbergs,” “Home Economics” and “The Wonder Years”; popular game shows, including “The $100,000 Pyramid,” “Celebrity Family Feud,” “The Chase,” “Press Your Luck” and “To Tell the Truth”; star-making sensation “American Idol”; “Judge Steve Harvey,” the network’s strongest unscripted series debut in a year; reality phenomenon “Shark Tank”; family favorites “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Holey Moley”; “General Hospital,” which heads into its milestone 60th season on the network; and late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”; as well as the critically acclaimed, Emmy®Award-winning “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” specials. The network also boasts some of television’s most prestigious awards shows, including “The Oscars®,” “The CMA Awards” and the “American Music Awards.”

ABC programming can also be viewed on Hulu.

Founded in 2012, Jesse Collins Entertainment (JCE) is a full-service television and film production company that has played an integral role in producing many of television’s most memorable moments in music entertainment. The Emmy® winning company has a multi-year overall agreement with ViacomCBS Cable Networks. On the film side, the company also has a first look on JCE’s film development projects which could include Viacom’s film entities such as Paramount Players.  JCE’s award-winning and critically acclaimed television includes programming from its three divisions.  From the scripted division: scripted series—Real Husbands of Hollywood, American Soul and miniseries—The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story.  From the unscripted division: unscripted series – Cardi Tries, My Killer Body with K. Michelle, DJ Cassidy’s Pass the Mic and Forward: The Future of Black Music, competition/game shows—Becoming A Popstar, Rhythm + Flow, Sunday Best, Hip Hop Squares and Nashville Squares, talk show – Face to Face with Becky G and children’s series—Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices (Emmy® Award winner).  From the specials division: award shows—The American Music Awards, BET Awards, Soul Train Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards, Black Girls Rock!, BET Honors, UNCF’s An Evening of Stars and ABFF Honors, specials—The Super Bowl Halftime Show, CNN’s Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom, Martin: The Reunion, John Lewis: Celebrating A Hero, Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration, Change Together: From The March On Washington To Today, A GRAMMY Salute to the Sounds of Change, Stand Up for Heroes, Dear Mama, Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin’, Def Comedy Jam 25, Leslie Jones: Time Machine, The All-Star Nickmas Spectacular and Rip the Runway.  Emmy® winner Jesse Collins, Founder and CEO, is the executive producer of all programming.  He is also an executive producer for the Grammy Awards.  He produced the 2021 Oscars.

Review: ‘Embattled,’ starring Stephen Dorff, Darren Mann, Karrueche Tran, Colin McKenna and Elisabeth Reaser

December 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Darren Mann and Stephen Dorff in “Embattled” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)


Directed by Nick Sarkisov

Culture Representation: Taking place in various U.S. cities and in Quebec City, Canada, the drama “Embattled” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and African Americans) representing the middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An arrogant superstar mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighter has an up-and-down relationship with his mild-mannered 18-year-old son, and the two men end up battling each other in a high-profile MMA fight.

Culture Audience: “Embattled” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in compelling sports movies that are also emotional family dramas.

Stephen Dorff, Chris Conolley and Ethan Melisano in “Embattled” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

It seems like in every other sports movie about an underdog who’s fighting a champion, the underdog has “daddy issues” from having an absentee, abusive or neglectful father. “Embattled” is one of those movies, but it’s a cut above the average film that takes place in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), largely because of the impressive acting by the “Embattled” cast members. Directed by Nick Sarkisov and written by David McKenna, “Embattled” has enough gritty realism about a dysfunctional and damaged family to make up for the occasional hokey dialogue and the far-fetched but not entirely impossible scenario of a famous MMA champ doing a high-profile fight against his son.

The father and son at the center of this family feud are hard-drinking, trash-talking Cash Boykins (played by Stephen Dorff) and his kindler, gentler offspring Jett Boykins (played by Darren Mann), who live in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and have had an unstable and unpredictable relationship for years. The story unfolds in layers over how their relationship has changed, in order to explain why they ended up fighting in a “death match” scenario on TV. “Embattled” is also a scathing look at the cycle of abuse in families and how one person can do damage that can last for years.

In the beginning of “Embattled,” all seems to be going fairly smoothly between Cash and Jett, who is 18 years old and in his last year of high school. Cash is a world-famous but controversial MMA welterweight champ in the fictional World Fighting Association (WFA) promotion, and he has been training Jett on how to become a professional MMA fighter. Jett is not as aggressive and ruthless as Cash, who is excessively crude, sexist and proud to flaunt his obnoxiousness. Cash sees life and treats people as if anyone who isn’t a straight, white, able-bodied American male is an inferior human being.

Cash’s bigotry is on full display in the first MMA fight shown in the movie. Cash is at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas to do battle against a Russian fighter named Timofei Kozlov (played by Ethan Melisano), who hails from St. Petersburg. The opponents’ stats are announced sometime before the fight. Cash is 5’9″ and 171 pounds, with a record of 37 wins and one loss. Timofei is 5’8″ and 170 pounds, with 18 wins and four losses.

In the walk-up to the fight, Cash yells about his Russian opponent: “I get to kill myself a Commie! Lock and load, motherfuckers!” And later, when Cash faces off against Timofei before the opening-round bell rings, Cash declares arrogantly, “This election-meddling son of a bitch won’t take long.” Timofei sneers in response, “America sucks dick.” This tradeoff of insults is the introduction to a brutal brawl that ends with Timofei’s crushing defeat.

On a private plane after the fight, Cash’s toxic masculinity continues as he celebrates his victory. With him on the plane is his small entourage of people which includes Jett; Cash’s second wife, Jade (played by Karrueche Tran), who’s about 20 years younger than Cash; and some assorted employees. Cash wastes no time in flirting with an attractive flight attendant named Desirée, who politely brushes off his unwanted sexual innuendos. When she brings a drink to Cash, he leers at her while saying, “Ooh, yummy yum yum. The drink looks tasty too.”

Cash also tries to get the flight attendant to take a sexual interest in quiet and unassuming Jett, who doesn’t want to get involved in any hookups that Cash wants to arrange. Cash begins to brag about Jett to Desirée, who keeps a friendly and professional demeanor. When the flight attendant walks to another part of the plane out of hearing distance, Cash scolds Jett, “Are you fuckin’ blind? She’s tighter than a 7-year-old Korean boy!”

When Jett tells Cash that he doesn’t need his help in finding a date, Cash replies, “Since when did throwing out a résumé for a tasty piece of hair pie become a goddamn crime?” Cash’s offers Jett the use of his mansion as a place to bring Desirée for a sexual tryst, but Jett declines the offer. Cash is also an extremely macho father who thinks that if he has a son who doesn’t think of women as sexual conquests, the son must be a wimp or possibly gay.

Cash acts this way in full view of his wife Jade. And what does she have to say when Cash makes blatant sexual advances to the flight attendant? Jade tells her: “Desirée, sweetheart, please do not encourage that cheese.”

Jade is fully aware that Cash can be a sexually aggressive jerk, but his “bad boy” persona seems to be part of the reason why she was attracted to him in the first place. And because Jade appears to be a “trophy wife,” Cash has a charming side that treats her like a sexy goddess. Cash and Jade also have a 9-year-old son together named Kingston (played by Jakari Fraser), who is sweet and adorable and so far seems untainted by Cash’s bullying ways.

But one thing that really bothers Jade about Cash is how he’s mistreated his ex-wife and his two children from this first marriage. The marriage ended very badly 10 years before, for reasons that are revealed in a flashback. Cash’s ex-wife Susan (played by Elisabeth Reaser) used to be a high-ranking tennis player. But since the divorce from Cash, Susan has been struggling to make ends meet.

When this story takes place, Susan is working as a waitress to support Jett and his 15-year-old brother Quinn, nicknamed Q (played by Colin McKenna), who has Williams syndrome. Quinn and Jett are very close to each other. Jett treats Quinn like a protective and loving older brother, even though Jett sometimes gets impatient with Quinn.

Cash is very ashamed to have Quinn as his son and treats Quinn as inferior to Jett. Cash cruelly calls Quin a “tard,” as shorthand for “retard.” Cash also has a lot of deep-seated anger against Susan, whom he calls “Looney Tunes,” even though there’s no evidence that Susan has any mental-health issues. It’s one of many examples of how Cash belittles and demeans people in order to boost his already overinflated ego.

Jade feels strongly that Cash should try to mend his relationship with Jett and Quinn, and she wants Kingston to get to know his half-brothers better. But Cash refuses to let Quinn be a part of Cash’s family activities with Jade and Kingston. And viewers will get the impression that the main reason why Cash and Jett are now back in each other’s lives is because Cash wants to mold Jett into being another version of Cash.

Even though Cash is a multimillionaire who has four houses and 10 cars, he refuses to help out Susan financially, even when Quinn needed heart surgery and back surgery. Susan has not remarried. But even if a remarriage made her ineligible for alimony, she’s still entitled to child support.

Did Cash and Susan have a rock-solid prenuptial agreement where she wasn’t entitled to any of his money that he made during the marriage? Did she have terrible legal representation in the divorce? Or did something else happen to explain why she got such a raw deal of not getting reasonable alimony and child support? Those questions aren’t really answered in the movie, but the flashback showing the turning point in Cash and Susan’s bad marriage implies that she very likely chose to walk away from the marriage with no money because she was desperate to be rid of her lousy husband.

Jade and Cash argue because Jade thinks that Cash should be more compassionate to Susan, Jett and Quinn. Cash firmly believes that Susan, Jett and Quinn don’t deserve his financial help or compassion because that would be “coddling” them. Cash and Jett have been recently connecting because Cash is training Jett to be a professional MMA fighter. But beyond MMA, their father/son relationship is still a work in progress.

Jett has been accompanying Cash to as many of Cash’s MMA fights as possible. And this frequent traveling means that Jett has been skipping a lot of classes at school. He’s on the verge of flunking out of a math class, and a failing grade in this class would mean that he can’t graduate from high school.

Jett’s math teacher Ms. Malek (played by Lindsey Garrett) recommends that he get a tutor. It just so happens that Jett has a crush on a pretty and smart student named Keaton Carmichael (played by Ava Capri), who is headed to West Point after graduation. Guess who ends up being Jett’s tutor?

Meanwhile, Quinn goes to the same school, but he’s in a class for kids with special needs. The class is taught by Dan Stevens (played by Donald Faison), a military veteran who is also a paraplegic. Dan treats his students with respect, and he has a special bond with Quinn. It’s one of the reasons why Jett decides to play matchmaker and encourages his mother Susan and Dan to start dating each other.

Jett and Cash have been trying to improve their father/son relationship, but Cash makes it difficult because he’s relentless with his criticism of Jett. During their training sessions, Cash even insults Jett’s taste in music to try to make Jett feel like a “sissy.” When Jett says he likes the music of Colbie Caillat (who’s best known for her 2007 hit “Bubbly”) and other female singer/songwriters, Cash admonishes Jett by telling him that he should be listening to hard rock/heavy metal acts like Rob Zombie, Deftones and System of a Down. Jett responds good-naturedly by telling Cash: “I love my girls. Deal with it.”

It’s clear that Jett is a good guy who both loves and fears his father. Jett wants Cash’s approval but doesn’t necessarily want to be like Cash. And it could be left up to viewers’ interpretation if Jett really has a passion for MMA or if his ambition to be a successful MMA fighter is mainly because he wants to impress Cash. Jett’s worries about his future after high school and his need to get Cash’s approval take a toll on Jett’s self-esteem, because there’s a point in the story where Jett breaks down and tells Susan that he thinks of himself as a loser.

Although it’s not completely explored in “Embattled,” there’s a layer of anxiety in Susan feeling torn about her animosity toward her ex-husband (whom she really distrusts) and allowing Cash back into Jett’s life. How long should she hang on to those resentments toward her ex-husband? How much can Cash be trusted?

Money is a huge motivating factor for much of what happens in this story. Susan expresses a lot of concern when Cash tells her one day that he’s entered Jett into a fight with a 12th-ranked MMA fighter. Susan doesn’t think Jett is ready to compete with someone on that level, but Jett is a legal adult, and they could use the prize money if he wins.

Cash is an apt name for this blowhard MMA fighter because he’s very money-hungry and sees himself as a know-it-all wheeler dealer. He goes to WFA co-owners David Adelsberg (played by Mark Fite) and Rami Elbahri (played by Adam Karst), and attempts to pressure them into giving him and other MMA fighters better perks, such as bigger minimum fees, health-insurance benefits, pensions and higher revenue sharing. Cash threatens to form a union for MMA fighters if the WFA owners don’t give in to his demands. As the most famous fighter of WFA, Cash tells them that they need him more then he needs them.

The story in “Embattled” becomes much more interesting in the last half of the movie. Jett is at Cash’s Birmingham mansion for a small house party, where he observes Cash teaching Kingston some basic fight techniques. Cash grows impatient with Kingston and becomes verbally abusive and physically aggressive with the child. It triggers a flashback memory in Jett that leads to him becoming estranged from Cash again.

This falling out results in greedy Cash coming up with the idea of pitting himself against Jett in a major televised fight. And because their estrangement has become very bitter, Jett decides to go to Quebec City to train with a French Canadian named Claude (played by Saïd Taghmaoui), who is a major rival from Cash’s past. (“Embattled” was really filmed in Alabama.) The battle between father and son in the ring is suspensefully filmed, but the real battle in this story is over trust and emotions.

What makes “Embattled” stand out is that it’s not a simple “good versus evil” story or a basic “champion versus challenger” sports movie. Cash can easily be considered a predictable villain, but there are several moments in the film where Dorff brings real depth to the character. Cash is a terrible husband and father, but is he evil or just really damaged?

And the abuse that Cash inflicts will make people wonder why he turned out that way. It should come as no surprise that Cash’s father abused him as a child. It doesn’t excuse Cash’s awfulness, but “Embattled” shows viewers in some harrowing ways how abuse can be denied or blocked out but can still have devastating effects.

Ultimately, the heart and soul of the movie belong to Jett. Cash might be a lost cause, but how much will Jett follow in his father’s footsteps? Mann gives an admirable performance representing the possibility that the cycle of abuse in a family can be stopped and the healing can begin.

IFC Films released “Embattled” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on November 20, 2020.

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