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Anybody who’s ever seen a clip of mixed martial arts on YouTube or an episode of “UFC Embedded” will know what they’re in for with Conor McGregor: Notorious, a feature-length tribute to the Irish star now considered the biggest in the sport. Anybody who’s been on YouTube might as well stay there, however, so familiar is the behind-the-scenes material slapped together here.
Directed by Gavin Fitzgerald (The Fighting Irish), who followed Team McGregor over some four years, this feature-length tribute is hagiographic in the extreme and already out of date, racing over McGregor’s recent boxing match with Floyd Mayweather at film’s end but mostly concerned with a couple of fights with American Nate Diaz that took place last year. Available on various digital platforms after playing in North American theaters for one night only, this is one for the uber-fans in New York, Boston and Chicago, but is unlikely to win over the uninitiated.
McGregor is a compelling, contradictory figure, famous for his frequently very funny verbal jabs at opponents, which get confoundingly short shrift here. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s smack talking made him a star in 1977’s Pumping Iron, and the Austrian Oak makes a couple of baton-passing appearances, trotting out an “I’ll be back” joke the old ham must use daily. McGregor turned down a role in Shane Black’s The Predator last year, and we’ll doubtless be seeing him on the big screen before too long, a la Ronda Rousey. But fans will find this outing a bit old-hat, and newbies will probably be wondering what the fuss is all about.
Dublin native McGregor was a plumber’s apprentice before devoting himself full-time to training, fighting on the European circuit before exploding onto the UFC scene in 2012. He and long-time girlfriend Dee Devlin — who, like the rest of his entourage, never sits down for an interview with the filmmakers — lived at his parents’ house while McGregor trained in the Dublin gym owned and run by John Kavanagh, McGregor’s coach since he was a teenager. Kavanagh is a thoughtful figure who is rather remote here, seen wrapping hands in dressing rooms but rarely importuned for his opinion on fight tactics, or anxieties about head trauma and weight cutting, or just what it is that makes McGregor special.
Fitzgerald and his editor Andrew Hearne have opted for title cards instead of voiceover to signpost McGregor’s path from welfare to multimillion-dollar paydays, but what’s missing is any kind of perspective on the main attraction. Ditto any insight about the sport itself, illegal in New York until only last year.
In lieu of talking heads we get endless fly-on-the-wall scenes of McGregor training, in the cage, at press conferences and relaxing in his Vegas mansion or his parents’ Dublin home. Drake, Kanye and Gordon Ramsay pop up — big fans all. Montages of the high life, in private jets and fancy cars, abound. McGregor’s needling of Mayweather proved uncharacteristically unmemorable earlier this year, perhaps because it was clear the Irishman, who wore mink coats and suits with “fuck you” stitched into the pinstripes on the multicity jamboree that preceded the mega-bout, rather admired Mayweather’s flash.
It all makes for a wearying spectacle, and Notorious‘ pacing is all over the place, hurrying over McGregor’s first few fights in the UFC (as well as his last) but liberally stocked with slo-mo sequences of McGregor driving — or, pardon me, being driven — down the Vegas Strip in a Rolls.
Production companies: Motive Films, McGregor Sports & Entertainment
Cast: Conor McGregor, Dana White, Dee Devlin, John Kavanagh, Nate Diaz, Owen Roddy, Artem Lobov
Director: Gavin Fitzgerald
Producers: Jamie D’Alton, Graeme McDonnell
Executive producers: Conor McGregor, Anne McLoughlin
Director of photography: Darragh Mccarthy, Gavin Fitzgerald
Editor: Andrew Hearne
Composer: Hugh Drumm
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