Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Haymaker Movie Poster Image
Violence, fighting in not-very-good neo-noir romance.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 83 minutes

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Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No clearly positive messages in this arbitrary drama. In some minor way, however, the movie does show that training and practicing can help make perfect.

Positive Role Models

The movie has many flaws -- and flawed characters. But it succeeds in offering an empathetic portrayal of a transgender character. She's depicted as being just like anyone else who has quirks, feelings, failures, and successes, rather than as any kind of "other."


Attempted rape. Character pummels rapist (his punches land off-screen). Blood stains on clothing. Muay Thai boxing match with punching and kicking. Fight trainer with bruised face. Threats.


A man shaves his private area; naked bottom shown. Kissing. Sex-related dialogue. Revealing outfits. Flirting.


Uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," "t-ts," "hell," "goddamn," "shut up," "freak," "nuts." A song on the soundtrack includes many uses of "f--k" and "motherf----r."


A shopping sequence includes stops in several high-end stores, like Gucci, Prada, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character does drugs/pills at a party. Character gets very drunk in a club; bodyguard escorts her out. Social drinking in bars and at dinner. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Haymaker is the story of a Muay Thai boxer (Nick Sasso, who also wrote and directed) who becomes a bodyguard for a pop star (Nomi Ruiz, aka Jessica 6). It includes an attempted rape, violent punching, and some blood stains. The pop star kisses two men, the bodyguard shaves his privates (his naked bottom is shown), and there's sex-related dialogue, revealing outfits, and flirting. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "bulls--t," "s--t," and more. The pop star takes pills/drugs and drinks heavily; there's also social drinking in bars and at dinner and some cigarette smoking. While it has a neat neo-noir look, the storytelling and Sasso's performance are dreadfully flat. But on the plus side, it offers an empathetic portrayal of a transgender character.

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What's the story?

In HAYMAKER, Nick (Nick Sasso) is a former Muay Thai fighter who's now working as a bouncer in a nightclub. When he saves pop singer Nomi (Nomi Ruiz, also known as Jessica 6) from a rapist, she asks him to become her bodyguard. As they tour the world, Nomi and Nick seem to grow closer -- but at the same time, she keeps dragging him to bars and parties, where she alienates him with her behavior and her substance use. They argue, and Nick decides to go back to fighting, and heads to Thailand to train. Can he forget Nomi, or are their destinies linked?

Is it any good?

This good-looking action/drama, casually paced and set against intriguing, late-night backdrops, is unfortunately a total flatline in terms of story and characters, with the exception of Ruiz. Visual FX veteran Sasso makes his writing, directing, and acting debut with Haymaker; he also produced, edited, and -- yes -- provided the film's effects. His strength is certainly in the visuals, and he cooks up a slick, lush, neo-noir atmosphere in locations set all over the world. It's reminiscent of old MTV music videos or quietly obscure 1980s movies like Choose Me and Mona Lisa.

Sasso apparently had enough pull to assemble a fun supporting cast, including D.B. Sweeney, Udo Kier, John Ventimiglia, Veronica Falcón, and stunt coordinator Zoë Bell. But that's about where the good stuff ends. Haymaker's story doesn't have any dramatic or emotional pull. Nick decides to take the job guarding Nomi after only a second's hesitation, and his decision to return to fighting seems equally arbitrary. And Sasso is stiff in the role of Nick. Although he pulls off the fight scenes well enough, he comes off as robotic and blank in the other scenes that require him to be human. Happily, Ruiz makes the most of her role, even if it does revolve around a series of pop-star clichés. She has star power to burn, and there's never any doubt that she'd be a phenomenon.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Haymaker. How are the boxing sequences different from the scene involving the rapist? How do the impacts of these sequences compare?

  • How would you describe the movie's portrayal of its transgender character? Is she stereotyped in any way? Why is it important to have diverse representations in the media?

  • Are alcohol, smoking, and drugs glamorized? Are there consequences for using? Why does that matter?

  • How does the movie deal with sexual attraction between the two main characters?

  • What's the appeal of movies about boxing, fighting, and martial arts?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love martial arts and romance

Themes & Topics

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