It was only a matter of time before the world's fastest-growing sport, mixed martial arts, got the Hollywood movie treatment. And Hamill certainly falls under formulaic sports flicks. But what makes it different is that our hero's story is true and his achievement truly impressive, because UFC fighter Matt "the Hammer" Hamill was born profoundly deaf in both ears.
Raised in Loveland, Ohio, by his mother and grandfather, Hamill is taught from a young age that he shouldn't feel sorry for himself and that the world owes him nothing. A fighting spirit and an inner rage help him find his calling in high school wrestling, where he is outstanding enough to earn a full ride to Purdue University.
But he soon learns that his insulated world of rural Ohio is very
different from the hustle and bustle of college life, especially for a
deaf person, and he's eventually cut from the Purdue wrestling team.
Undeterred, he enlists at RIT National Institute for the Deaf and
refocuses himself with the help of his hearing-impaired classmates and
There's a love interest, a best friend, and the requisite final showdown
common to all sports films. Director Oren Kaplan does a magnificent job
showing the everyday challenges of being deaf. A large portion of the
film is in sign language (with subtitles), and the viewer is cast into
Hamill's world when his challenges are magnified by muffled sounds, to
dramatic effect. Russell Harvard, a hearing-impaired actor you might
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remember from There Will Be Blood, turns in a powerful and engaging
performance as Matt Hamill. March 9 at 9:15 p.m., Regal Cinemas South
Beach (1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-6766).