Headbutts. Soccer kicks. Fish-hooking. Biting. Kicks to the head of a grounded opponent. “Green Rush” may have a few connections to mixed martial arts, but this weed-soaked thriller, which hits all VOD platforms on April 14 is hardly playing by the Unified Rules of MMA.
Set on an undisclosed pot farm in northern California, “Green Rush” (Lionsgate / Fabrox Films) thrusts the viewer directly into the world of the emerging legal cannabis industry, where big firms are quickly snatching up land and squeezing independent growers like Rob (Mike Foy) and Caleb Haynes (Declan Michael Laird) out of the market.
With an abundance of crop, but no legal distribution method in place, brothers Rob and Caleb are in a state of constant disagreement over how to turn a profit while sticking to the letter of the law. Rob’s girlfriend, Maria (Kriss Dozal), and hangers on like Adder (Misha Crosby) and Diego (Andre Fili) further complicate the issue, as everyone has a motive in “Green Rush.” Everyone, including villains Ticker (Paul Telfer) and Swift (Alexius Zellner), who arrive on the scene to cause more than a little havoc, with a slight dose of gore and a pinch of homoeroticism.
“The story is based on ‘true events.’ This actually happened to a mutual friend,” explains producer Rick Lee. “We also incorporate some other elements from other heists we researched. The northern California cannabis trade it very real, it hasn’t been told in a cinematic way and we were very excited to do so.”
Rather than dive too far into the story and divulge important details, spoilers, double crosses, and plot twists, it’s better to examine “Green Rush” on a technical level, where the cinematography of Matt Irwin, son of acclaimed director of photography Mark Irwin (“Old School,” “Scream,” “The Fly,” and basically every Farrelly brothers film), excels to give this film a level of sheen and visual sophistication that is far beyond standard B movie parameters.
To that effect, “Green Rush,” which is the debut release from UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber’s Fabrox Films, only disguises itself as a B movie due to its brief 87-minute run time, indie budget, cast of mostly unknown actors, and association with soap opera talent. However; it’s that very same soap opera star (Telfer, who’s in the midst of a five year run on “Days of Our Lives”) who steals the show on screen.
As Ticker, a recently paroled ex-con with psychotic tendencies and a clock facial tattoo, Telfer is both maniacal, complex, and hateable. His performance is stellar, inducing fear and anxiety in the viewer, following this story of modern outlaws living on lawless land.
Beyond his work on screen, Telfer is also credited as a co-writer, partnering with first time screenwriter and veteran mixed martial arts reporter Danny Acosta. Together, Telfer and Acosta deliver a script that includes religious and wildlife imagery, along themes of immigration, money laundering, interstate drug smuggling, and redemption. They also effectively use marijuana growth and horticulture as a metaphor for child rearing, and include some standout lines like “you should never run from a predator, lest they know you’re prey.”
For the MMA and combat sports enthusiast, “Green Rush” is undoubtedly an easy sell for the numerous movie marathons and Zoom-backed watch parties currently taking place in various states of quarantine. Not only is the film executive produced by Faber, but “Green Rush” also includes veteran UFC featherweight Andre Fili in his on-screen debut.
A knockout artist inside the Octagon, Fili proves that his acting chops are not far behind his kickboxing skills. As Diego, a quiet loner caught in the middle of this Mary Jane murder mystery, Fili lands the only clean punches in the film, despite claiming “I don’t watch boxing.”
The remainder of the contact in “Green Rush” resides far outside the stretches of the Unified Rules of MMA.
MMA diehards may also find a few other Easter eggs hidden throughout “Green Rush.” Not only do MMA reporters like Luke Thomas, R.J. Clifford, John Morgan, and Karyn Bryant appear in speaking-only roles, but there’s also a particular line in the script that strikes a chord.
At one point, Ticker casually states “cause nobody likes a fucking snake, do they?” Is this a direct jab at T.J. Dillashaw, Faber and Fili’s former training partner who was dismissed from Team Alpha Male in 2016? It certainly sounds like it.
With numerous ties to mixed martial arts and the UFC, “Green Rush” already has a built in audience with the MMA crowd, but this thriller is much more than a fight movie. In fact, it’s not a fight movie at all. And, to go even further, it’s not really just a weed movie, or just a thriller. It’s a solid effort from director Gerard Roxburgh (“The Ultimate Fighter”) that brings the world of northern California’s cannabis boom, along with its seedy underbelly, right into your home.
And the results are terrifying.
Dan Shapiro is a writer, editor, musician, and producer currently based in Los Angeles. In addition to covering some of the biggest fights in combat sports history, he’s also hunted down the world’s best sushi, skied the northern hemisphere in July, and chronicled Chinese underground music for publications like CNN, the New York Daily News, VICE, and Time Out. Dan also conjured up a ghost at the Chateau Marmont while out on assignment for RoadTrippers. Follow him on Twitter here.
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