You rarely see a positive father figure on screen these days or even stories of fathers who may not be perfect but at least try their best to improve.
The last father-centric films that stood out to me that I still remember are films from more than 5 years ago: Real Steel (2011), Homefront (2013), and Southpaw (2015). And one recent surprise that was recommended to me, was A Father’s Legacy (2021) which I did not even know existed.
One thing all these 4 films have in common is the missing mother figure. Let’s dive into these interesting stories to see how the father effect plays out.
Real Steel is a 2011 science fiction drama film based on the short story “Steel”, written by Richard Matheson, which was originally published in the May 1956 edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and later adapted into a 1963 Twilight Zone episode. The story is set in a world where boxers were replaced by robots.
Former boxer Charlie Kenton, played by Hugh Jackman, whose sport is now played by robots. He owns Ambush but loses it in a fight against a bull belonging to promoter and carnival owner Ricky. Charlie previously made a bet with Ricky that Ambush would win, but Charlie disappears before Ricky can collect. After the fight, Charlie learns that his ex-girlfriend died and he must now attend a hearing to decide the future of their son, 11-year-old Max, a robot-boxing fan with whom Charlie has had virtually no contact since Max was born.
Debra who is Max’s maternal aunt and her wealthy husband, Marvin, wants full custody, which Charlie bargains for $100,000, half in advance, and Marvin negotiates that Charlie retains Max for three months while Marvin and Debra go on vacation to Italy. Max upon knowing this demands half the money. Charlie tells him that he already spent the money on a robot.
At the gym, they unpack Noisy Boy, a former league champion robot. The gym is owned by Bailey Tallit, the daughter of Charlie’s former boxing coach and who Charlie grew up with and currently lives with. Charlie brings Noisy Boy to a fight that same night and it gets destroyed. Charlie thinks that Noisy Boy wasn’t good enough. Max says to him that he didn’t give him a chance: “That’s what you do right? Everything you don’t need; you just throw away?” referring to the way he just left him with Aunt Debra.
Charlie and Max go to a junkyard “Metal Valley” to gather parts to build a new robot. Max slips from a cliff and almost died. A robot arm sticking from the ground saved him. Max digs the ground and finds a whole robot buried there. Charlie does not help him, but Max manages to take out the robot and takes full ownership of him. Seems fair since it took him half the night to drag him out of the junkyard. Charlie brings the destroyed parts of Noisy Boy to Baily. Baily and Charlie seem to have a long history of being there for each other but Charlie’s financial instability to not make the rent is affecting her ability to maintain the house and the gym.
Charlie asks Baily to check the robot the kid brought. She informs them that it is a sparring robot designed to withstand severe damage known as Generation 2 (G2). They manage to activate the unit and noticed that he has a “shadow function” the ability to mirror opponent and handler movements and store them in its memory due to its rare “shadow function”. Max cleaned him up and noticed that its name is Atom. He takes him out for a walk at night and realizes that the G2 unit can understand him when he speaks to him.
The following day at the gym Baily tells Max about Charlie’s past. How he fought against the top contenders and shows him a newspaper cut about the fight. Charlie didn’t win but he endures: “Win or lose the fight is not over until someone is on the mat”. Charlie found a potential partner that would finance him by getting another fighting robot. They agreed to meet at the stadium where a robot fight is taking place starring “Zeus” the undefeated champion. Max sees the fight and gets excited. Charlie didn’t get much help from his potential partner. Charlie then arranges a fight for Atom at Max’s insistence at some place called “The Zoo”. He thinks Atom would never be good enough to fight and hopes the disappointment would stop Max’s insistence. Surprisingly Atom wins the match.
Max programs Noisy Boy’s vocal-respond controls in Atom and convinces Charlie to help him with Atom’s fighting-move memory. Charlie starts training with Atom, and they continue to participate in fights that result in Charlie being offered a fight in World Robot Boxing, pitting Atom against national champion Twin Cities. At the fight, the representative of the owner of Zeus offers Max and Charlie 200,000 dollars for Atom. Charlie is all for it. Max tells him NO, she wants him because Atom is valuable, and they would be missing an opportunity to win. Again, Atom surprises everyone with a win over Twin Cities and Max publicly challenges Zeus to a fight against Atom.
That same night after the fight, Ricky, an old acquaintance of Charlie appears with two henchmen who attack Charlie for bailing on Ricky. They take the money Charlie and Max won from the fight. A defeated and dejected Charlie returns Max to Debra. Before leaving Max tells Charlie that he just wanted him to fight for him. That’s all he ever wanted. He doesn’t want a comfortable life; he just wants to be with his dad. Charlie feels that Max deserves better. Charlie was freaked out when Max was born and decided to stay away. He feels he doesn’t deserve the affection Max is giving him because he wasn’t there for him since he was born.
Charlie goes back to Baily. He arrives at night and just sleeps next to her. The next day he kissed her before going on the road again. Before leaving Bailey tells him: Go get them, Charlie!
Charlie then goes looking for Max at Debra’s house. He apologizes for everything that happened during the last few days and for not being there for him before. He tells him he got the Zeus fight and asks Debra if he can take him to the fight and Debra agrees. They are fully aware that they possibly can’t win. Everyone is betting against them and undervaluing them, but they will still do their best.
What follows is an emotional fight where Max got to see his dad at his best. It was so emotional I shed a few tears. Late in the fourth round, Atom’s vocal-respond controls are damaged, forcing Charlie to use its shadow function to make Atom mimic his boxing skills. Atom endures a long series of attacks from Zeus until Zeus’s power cores have been depleted, at which point Charlie directs Atom to begin its counterattack against a tired and helpless Zeus.
The Zeus owner takes control as Charlie has. Zeus is beating down and barely avoids losing by knockout. Atom didn’t win the fight, but he did something extraordinary, enduring 5 rounds with Zeus and still standing in the end. Zeus is damaged to the point where he’s irreparable and permanently shut down. For that, he was declared the People’s Champion. Atom is the emotional winner because he is the reason for strengthening the father-son bond between Charlie and Max. Both Max and Charlie celebrate regardless of the match result. In the end, despite Zeus winning, Atom is the one celebrated as the People’s Champion.
I always feel uplifted after watching this movie. The movie gave me hope that no matter how bad the odds are if we give our best, we will reach higher. As I’m curious to know what people watch, most people didn’t know about it or were not interested in watching it. Female friends that didn’t know about it went to watch it since it stars Hugh Jackman. It is one of those movies that today wouldn’t be supported by the mainstream for portraying a complicated father-son relationship and for inspiring men to try to have better relationships with their sons.
The film can be watched on Amazon Prime, HBO, and some other platforms like Google Play/DirectTV depending on your jurisdiction. Or if you are like me and still treasure physical media, you can get the DVD/Blu-ray on Amazon.
Homefront is a 2013 action, drama, and thriller film based on the 2005 novel Homefront by Chuck Logan, directed by Gary Fleder, and written by Sylvester Stallone.
Phil Broker, played by Jason Statham, retires from the DEA two years after raiding a drug lab owned by biker gang leader Danny T, played by Chuck Zito. During the raid, Danny T’s son gets shot and killed. Phil moves to a small Louisiana town with his daughter Maddy, played by Izabela Vidovic.
One day, Maddy gets into a school fight with a special needs child who is a bully named Teddy Klum, played by Austin Craig. She clearly knows how to fight. Reminds me of Cobra Kai. Phil received a phone call from her teacher to come and get her. Phil talked with Susan, the school psychologist, played by Rachelle Lefevre. He tells her that it’s just the 2 of them moving into town. Maddy’s mother wanted them to live there. She died years ago.
As they prepare to go home, Teddy’s mother, Cassie, played by Kate Bosworth, tries to start a fight between her husband and Phil, which Phil easily wins. You can clearly see where Teddy learned how to be a bully. She provokes and then cries for help when things don’t go her way. See what happens when you poke the bear?
That night Phil tucks Maddy in and makes sure she has a peaceful night. Seeking revenge Cassie later asks her brother Gator, played by James Franco, who is a meth supplier, to intimidate Phil. The next day Phil takes Maddy horseback riding. Watching Maddy Phil feels content as well as sad. On their way back they see Maddy’s teacher. Phil smiles at her. Maggy catches him smiling.
The sheriff makes Phil know that he is on his radar. Phil takes Maggy horseback riding and walking through nature. Gator follows them and makes sure they have a flat tire. He then breaks into their house where he finds old DEA personnel files; he discovers that Phil was responsible for Danny T’s arrest, which caused the death of Danny T’s son.
It’s Maddy’s birthday and everyone is there celebrating including Teddy. It seems the kids are friendly with each other now.
Taking advantage of the situation in order to gain some goodwill, Gator tells Danny T, who sends members of his gang to kill Phil. Phil’s DEA contacts warn him that Gator may be involved with Danny T. Phil then heads to Gator’s drug lab and sabotages it, but he is found by Gator’s thugs, subdued and tortured. Phil manages to escape and defeat his captors. He and Maddy need to leave town but she doesn’t want to.
Sheryl, Gator’s girlfriend, played by Winona Ryder, forces Maddy to leave with her; Maddy uses her cell phone to call Phil on the police line, and from her talks, he realizes that she has been taken to Gator’s drug lab. Cassie arrives at the scene after hearing news of the gunfight and finds Maddy there. Just then Phil’s sabotage is activated and all the meth burns into flames.
Disgusted with her brother, Cassie tries to leave with Maddy but gets accidentally shot by her brother. Gator then flees with Maddy in his truck, with Phil going after them. When Phil crashes his car, Gator prepares to shoot him but is distracted by Maddy. Taking advantage of the moment, Phil frees himself and brutally beats Gator before reuniting with Maddy.
I know that the focus is mostly on the action but the father-daughter bond is there. There is not much sentimental dialogue between the two but there seems to be a mutual understanding. When Phil hides things from her, she knows and tells him she knows. Can you imagine having a badass dad like Phil? The fact that he trained her to defend herself at that age is awesome. With the many predators that are roaming around these days, kids learning self-defense should become the standard.
The film can be watched on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Starz, Apple TV, and some other platforms like Google Play or DirectTV depending on your jurisdiction. If you live in a place with poor internet and treasure physical media, you can get the DVD/Blu-ray on Amazon.
Southpaw is a 2015 sports drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Kurt Sutter.
Billy “The Great” Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is a professional boxer, and the current champion in the Light Heavyweight division. He lives in New York City with his wife Maureen, played by Rachel McAdams, and their only daughter Leila, played by Oona Laurence. Billy and Maureen have a healthy committed relationship and Billy has a loving relationship with Leila. He tells her he loves her every day.
During an event where he was invited to give a speech and share his life experiences, Maureen gets accidentally shot during an altercation between Billy and some tugs. After losing his wife Billy falls into alcohol and drugs. He pays less attention to Leila.
Blinded by damage due to headshots during a fight, Billy accidentally headbutts the referee in the face. Billy is suspended for a year and has no income, while he owes the referee and the network damages after getting sued. His house and belongings will be taken away to cover the costs. One night, Billy runs his car into the tree outside his home. Leila hears the crash, a few moments later finds her father in the house bleeding on the floor, she screams for help, and eventually calls 911.
Billy wakes up in the hospital and learns that Leila will be put under the care of Child Protective Services officer Angela Rivera, played by Naomie Harris. With nowhere left to go, Billy goes to the Wills Gym where he meets former boxer Tick Wills, played by Forest Whitaker. Tick is blind in one eye after his last fight left him injured.
Billy wants Tick’s help to get him back on his feet. Tick knows about his drug problems and refuses to train him. Instead, he offers Billy a janitorial job. Billy meets with Angela to see Leila. However, Leila blames him for their problems and refuses to see him. I don’t blame her at this point. She endured a lot already. This moment turns into a turning point for Billy. He returns to the gym and accepts the janitorial job. He is set out to get his life back on track for his daughter.
While working there, he befriends a boy named Hoppy, played by Skylan Brooks, who is also an aspiring boxer. He learns that Hoppy’s father abuses his mother, which he reports to Tick. Tick tells him that he needs to give Leila space, he needs to get better too. She lost her mom. As he starts to make amends in his life, Billy continues visiting Leila, and his persistence wins her over.
That is until he tells her about a charity match that he will participate in. She gets upset that she won’t be there for him as she has to stay at the Child Protective Services facility. She tells him she hates him and wished he died instead of her mother. It’s a heartbreaking scene. I could feel her pain.
After winning a charity match, Billy is visited by Jordan, his former manager, played by 50 Cent. He now manages Miguel, played by Miguel Gomez, who recently won the championship from Kalil Turay. Jordan wants to book a fight between the two within six weeks, knowing that Billy will not have enough time to train. Billy thinks he can make a comeback and wants Tick to train him, but Tick refuses, believing Billy just wants revenge.
Billy later learns from Tick that Hoppy has died after trying to defend his mother from his father. Lamenting that he could not save Hoppy, Tick decides to help Billy train for the upcoming fight. Noting Billy’s efforts to change his life, the judge grants Billy custody of Leila and she moves back in with him. She insists to let him be at the fights. Billy is struggling to take a decision as he is not used to it. Maureen was always the one arranging things and taking care of stuff. Visiting Maureen’s grave together, Billy tells Leila he is going to fight again and grants her wish of letting her be there at the fight in the dressing room. Billy gives his all in preparing for the fight.
On the night of the fight, Angela brings Leila into the dressing room where they watch it on TV. Miguel takes the early upper hand. Both fighters trade furious punches, round after round. Miguel then insults Maureen, causing Billy to lose concentration. In a fit of rage, Billy lashes out and almost stops the fight. Tick cautions Billy not to let Miguel control him. His daughter is watching, His wife is watching, he is watching.
Billy controls his anger and in the final round, gains the upper hand against Miguel. He knocks Escobar down with a left-hand shot, the southpaw position. Despite a split decision giving the first rounds to Miguel, Billy is announced as the new champion. Hope is Back!
Billy collapses in the corner crying, thanking Maureen and committing himself to Leila. After the fight, Leila meets Billy in the dressing room, where they hug for the first time since Maureen’s death. Billy says Maureen would be proud of her and she tells him she loves him. Angela sees them together, smiling she leaves. Billy and Leila continue to hug each other till the end.
Unlike “Homefront” Southpaw gives more screen time to the father-daughter relationship. I loved how after all his mistakes Billy tried to make things better. and even though the journey was difficult he never gave up and asked for the help he so urgently needed from the right person. I wish more fathers were like that. Despite all the difficulties be open to receiving help and get back on your feet. Never stop fighting for your loved ones. Making the effort is more valuable than doing nothing and giving up.
A FATHER’S LEGACY
A Father’s Legacy is a 2021 hostage drama film written and directed by Jason Mac. The film stars Tobin Bell and Jason Mac in the lead roles.
Billy, played by Tobin Bell, is a no-nonsense Vietnam War veteran living alone in the woods in a house by a pond in A FATHER’S LEGACY. Billy putters around his remote lakeside home, geese-proofing his duck box, chiding the Almighty when the day’s chores are done. I only talk to you because Cynthia made me promise to do it every day, Billy says. Take me whenever you want,” he adds. He’s ready to go.
One night a younger man, Nick, played by Jason Mac, forces his way into Billy’s house and holds the old man at gunpoint. Nick is on the run from the police for money he stole, and he has a gunshot wound in his side that needs tending. He takes him hostage. Billy tells him that he doesn’t appreciate him bleeding on his couch.
Forced together, Billy and Nick begin a tentative relationship based first on mutual distrust. Not fearing death, the older man opens up about his past to Nick. When Billy brushes off a visit from the sheriff’s department and then passes up the chance to end this situation by getting the drop on Nick the robber, trust grows between the captor and the captive.
As the days go by and secrets about their past are revealed, they realize they may not have been looking for each other but they were brought together for a reason. They eventually develop a mutual understanding of each other. The film includes powerful lessons about a father’s responsibility and legacy.
Nick as an upcoming father must think about his actions and the consequences. Billy is struggling to share his legacy with his broken family and is looking for the lord’s help. Nick is looking for his dad to pay him back, and that’s why he stole the money. He also wants to ask him why didn’t he choose him. Billy tells him that he doesn’t need to do that. His dad and who he was doesn’t define who he is going to be. Billy then falls ill and passes away. Nick takes care of his obituary and takes care of the house. He then throws his gun into the lake and puts back his wedding ring.
Billy’s real son arrives at Billy’s place. He tells Nick he has been looking for his real father for a long time. Nick tells him a few things about his dad and leaves. Nick returns the money he stole. Billy’s son finds Billy’s letter. Nick reunites with his wife. Without knowing Billy left behind his legacy to Nick and his son that will carry his teachings and share them with their kids. It is an inspirational story of faith, family, and redemption.
The film can be watched on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and some other platforms like Google Play or Microsoft Store depending on your jurisdiction. Unfortunately, there is no physical media for this film so far.
It seems like before 2016 there was still interest in creating films with father-centric themes/positive father figures or male role models. In the past, there have been many movies made that had the father effect.
Think about movies like The Kid (1921), Bicycle Thieves (1948), To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), The God Father (1972), Paper Moon (1973), Over the Top (1987), Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989), Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), A Bronx Tale (1993), The Lion King (1994), Legends of the Fall (1994), The War (1994), Ransom (1996), Life is Beautiful (1997), He got Game (1998), Big Daddy (1999), The Family Man (2000), Frequency (2000), Life as a House (2001), John Q (2002), Big Fish (2003), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), The Pursuit of Happiness (2006), Taken (2008), The Tree of Life (2011), Prisoners (2013), Chef (2014) and so on. It’s interesting to look back on these interesting and entertaining stories.
After 2016 there was a clear change in the movies that were released. A lot of remakes and sequels with a gender swap here and a race swap there. The writing and storytelling were deteriorating franchise after franchise. The positive male role model was disappearing. there were a few exceptions like “The Meg” where having a family is still shown as something positive and where Jason’s character Jonas despite his flaws is shown as a positive male role model to little Meiying.
Why don’t we see more positive stories to inspire males to have better relations with their families? Despite knowing the importance of this we barely see in recent years western movies with positive father/son or father/daughter relationships.
The 2021 film “A Father’s Legacy” is an exception. It’s an indie film that has been barely promoted online. But the most important thing is that it exists. I’m sure there are many more stories like this. In today’s climate is indie the only way for them to be materialized?
All images in this publication belong to the original creators and are used as references under fair use.
My notes are all set. Let me know what you think.
See you on the next page!