Director: Allan Luebke
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7.5/10
There’s no hiding that Allan Luebke’s documentary is patterned after Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky franchise. The film’s title even appears on screen as the Rocky’s titles so memorably did. You may even be able to hear a trailer voice over saying things like “Some fought for love. Some fought for glory.” Or “She was an underdog fighting for respect.” There’s even a training montage! In all honesty beyond those Hollywood clichés this documentary’s spirit has much in common with Stallone’s classic Rocky and unlike the Italian Stallion the story of “Heartless” Glena Avila is all true.
In her mid-thirties Glena Villa decided to take a stab at cage fighting and she actually turns out to be quite good. Damn good. With a stable job at the VA, a home, a steady relationship and her children she seems to have it made. However, Glena wants more. She wants to become a professional fighter. Luebke follows Glena over a series of three pivotal matches and the impact they were having on both her career aspirations and private life. This look at the life of a female cage fighter is a fascinating study into what drives the fighter, what are they fighting for and how does one balance their life with their professional one.
Glena is a great subject for this documentary. For non or casual fans of the sport perhaps the most recognized woman in the sport is Gina Carano who has gone on to establish herself as a Hollywood action star. Glena is an attractive, fit, driven and personable woman. When she gets focused on her career she can become very focused to the point of seeming withdrawn. The impact her drive and determination has on her relationship is quite poignant and sometimes sad. You really want her to succeed but you see the emotional toll and you begin to second guess her decisions…but, you really want her to succeed as a fighter. She’s the underdog, she’s gotta win.
It’s not immediately clear as to why she wants to fight and Luebke keeps that pretty vague until it is clear as crystal. We are simply following one woman’s amateur career as she tries to make it to the pros. When professional and personal lives collide and the stakes become high it truly becomes a film where you want to cheer her on. Glena does end up being like a real life Rocky with all the drama, all the heartache, all the fighting and yes the training montage too. If you’re a mixed martial arts fan this is worth a look and if you love sports documentary do check it out. If you want to see a real life Rocky story that may have you cheering you can’t go wrong with Glena.