Movie review by
Monique Jones, Common Sense Media
Embattled Movie Poster Image
MMA drama has lots of heart, fighting, and swearing.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Money and power aren't the only things that matter in life. Shows importance of courage and fighting your personal demons.

Positive Role Models

Jett has flaws but demonstrates courage, gives audiences a well-rounded view of a teenager facing life with an abusive, estranged parent, a sibling with a mental disability, and a single parent who's doing her best to protect her family. Jett is a protective older brother and mentor to his younger brother, helping his mother parent and share burden of family pressures. Jett also finds a way to come out from behind the shadow of memories of his father's abuse, setting a path to be different from him. Shows characters with disabilities (who are played by actors with disabilities) in nonstereotypical ways, broadening viewers' perception of what life is like for teens with mental disabilities. On the other hand, a character who uses a wheelchair is played by an actor who does not.


MMA fighting includes blood and severe injury. Domestic abuse, including punching, choking, and slapping children and/or women. Emotional abuse and threats, including threat of killing someone's child.


Brief nudity (bare breasts) and kissing. Suggestion of sexual escapades, including threesomes. A woman wears lingerie.


Frequent swearing, including "f--k," "f--king," "motherf----r," "motherf--king," "s--t," "hell," "p---y," "c--t," etc. Uses of LGBTQ+ slurs and phrases like "f--got," "c--ksucker," etc. Ableist slurs such as "'tard" (for "retard"). Exclamatory uses of "God" and "Jesus."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink. Drinking and driving. A teen character holds a beer but doesn't drink it. Suggestions of alcohol dependency.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Embattled is a sports drama about Cash Boykins (Stephen Dorff), a popular MMA fighter who's gotten rich but lacks the necessary tools to be a good father to his children, particularly his teenage son, Jett (Darren Mann), who follows his dad's footsteps into the ring. As is the nature of MMA, the film is full of fighting and sometimes-bloody violence. But violence is also a factor in Cash's relationships with his family: Expect upsetting scenes of domestic abuse. There's also lots of strong language, including swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and much more), ableist and LGBTQ+ slurs, and slurs against women. Characters drink, and there are brief scenes of kissing and partial nudity. On the positive side, the film also focuses on the courage it takes for Jett to face his father while helping his single mom raise his brother, who has a mental disability.

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What's the story?

In EMBATTLED, high schooler Jett Boykins (Darren Mann) tries to get closer to his father, lucrative MMA fighter "Liquid" Cash Boykins (Stephen Dorff). Cash seems to have it all: a stellar reputation in the ring, a new wife named Jade (Karrueche Tran), wealth, and a huge mansion. But Cash struggles with an alcohol dependency and abusiveness, which ruined his prior relationship with Jett's mother, Susan (Elizabeth Reaser). As Jett's memories of Cash's abusive past come back to haunt him, he and his father take their personal issues to the ring for what's considered the biggest fight of the century. 

Is it any good?

Embattled is a solid entry in the sports-drama subgenre. Fans of MMA fighting will have fun watching this story of a father and son coming to blows amid personal issues and psychological fears. Similar to how Rocky Balboa trained an underdog in an attempt to defeat the reigning boxing champion of the day, Mann's Jett trains his mind and body to defeat his father in a final battle. Jett is easy to root for, and viewers are likely to feel sympathy regarding his hardships concerning his father. Jett is also an empathetic older brother to Quinn (Colin McKenna), who has an unspecified mental disability but is played by an actor who has Williams syndrome. Quinn is actually one of the film's brighter spots, since we see him and his friends -- also played by actors with disabilities -- in nonstereotypical ways. This broadens the viewers' perception of what life is like for mentally disabled teenagers. 

While Donald Faison doesn't need a wheelchair in real life, which could annoy some disabled viewers, his role as Quinn's high school teacher, Mr. Stewart, also brings brightness to the film, particularly regarding his relationship with Reaser's Susan. Tran also turns a stereotype on its head as Jade. Jade looks like a stereotypical "trophy wife," but she's really a woman who wants the best for herself and her son, even if that means leaving a wealthy man like Cash. In fact, many of the film's characters, major and minor, are genuinely good people, putting Cash's character into stark relief. This supports the film's main thesis: that money and power aren't the only things that matter in life. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Embattled. How does it compare to what you might see in an action/superhero movie? Which has more impact?

  • How can you gather courage to stand up to bullies, especially if the bully is a family member? What can you do to look out for others who could be bullied?

  • Do you consider any of the characters to be role models? Why, or why not? What attributes do you think a positive role model has?

  • Talk about navigating family dynamics. How do you define "family togetherness"? What techniques can your family use to work through familial issues?

Movie details

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