“Lights Out”, “Cut Men” Review/Synopsis
At first glance I didn’t quite know what to make of this week’s “Cut Men“.
It’s like that movie you have to pay very close attention to every second (“The Usual Suspects“, “The Departed“) to catch every little nuance.
We learn more about Leary sister Margaret. We get another tidbit about Lights’ mother. My boy Hal Brennan is back (and how!).
Johnny is struggling as a divorced dad. Theresa is making a huge career decision and “Death Row” Reynolds is concerned about his “legacy” (a great scene in “Rocky Balboa” has AJ Benza as a sports agent stating “Every jock these days thinks he has a legacy!”). Pops is still “on vacation”.
And Lights is recovering.
Last week, trainer Ed Romeo was ousted, prompting teary farewells to the Leary family (who appear to have forgotten him this week) and a not so sentimental so-long to Johnny.
It ended with Lights being accidentally impaled by a pair of scissors.
Mike Fumosa, Lights’ pesky reporter friend who earlier on had lost his newspaper gig over the story of Leary’s suspicious late night car accident, is back as a TV reporter.
We see him and his film crew outside the Leary home. He’s there to cover the story of Leary’s stabbing at the hands of a crazed homeless man.
Again, Lights the Liar and with the re introduction of Fumosa, you wonder how long before he approaches Leary, suspicious over the assault story.
Or maybe he’s just happy to have another job.
Leary is lounging in the living room, watching the Fumosa report and chatting with Pops, telling him it’s all good and to “stay down there”: Dad’s still on his vacation (I’m starting to miss Stacy Keach, especially after I caught one of his “Twilight Zone” radio dramas late last Saturday night, and what is Lights planning on trainer-wise?).
Enter a balloon-bearing Barry K. Word. Big smiles. Audacious compliments for the Leary women.
Lights reassures his promoter that he’s fine, that training won’t be delayed that long, maybe a month.
Word is having none of it.
Either Leary makes the date or someone else will.
Leary takes the threat seriously, which as a true life reflection, I found odd.
Megafights, what Reynolds-Leary is purportedly to be, ones sold on the combatants history together and the public’s emotional investment in them, don’t rely on substitutes (Imagine Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather finally pinning down a date and one gets injured and the promoters throw in a replacement and call it all good: as a ticket buyer would you shrug and say okay?).
So great is the eventual pay-off, the promoters are usually content to wait.
There have been exceptions: in 1991, when Evander Holyfield was first scheduled to fight Mike Tyson, Tyson was injured.
Holyfield moved the fight to his hometown Atlanta and took a replacement opponent in one Bert Cooper, who was supposed to provide an easy night and nice showcase for the home fans.
In a life-and-death war, Cooper nearly knocked Holyfield out.
Yet another reason why promoters usually don’t want to roll the dice when it comes to giant events between two superstars.
The almost-a-doctor Theresa is treating Lights’ wound. She tells him he needs time to recover. Money rears it’s ugly head again: the Morales fight money is almost gone, the kids’ tuition is due.
Leary is at the diner in obvious pain when Johnny walks in. “I’m a wreck over it”, he tells his brother regarding the stabbing in the most hollow sounding remorse ever uttered.
He’s spoken with Word: the promoter wants 500K as a “step around” fee for not fighting on the agreed date (that does happen in real life).
And in classic Johnny-form, he offers a financial solution.
“The man kills people, Johnny. We don’t want him in our life.”
Oh poor Lights. You have no idea what’s soon to come.
Not sold on the Brennan idea of course, Leary opts to go straight to the source to buy himself time: Richard “Death Row” Reynolds.
I suppose it’s not out of the question the two would live within driving distance, but as a rule, multi-millionaire athletes don’t reside full time in urban New York. Regardless, we see more of the Reynolds household and – stage set or not – it is indeed the coolest friggin’ loft ever shot on film (“11,300 feet, partner” he tells Leary).
As I’ve stated many times, I liked how the Reynolds character was being groomed to be Lights’ ally, fight or not. And a couple of episodes back, he vehemently warned Lights against employing his former trainer, Ed Romeo.
**Very cool: Billy Brown, who portrays Reynolds, provides the powerful voice behind the US Marines television commercials.
As a result of Lights initially dismissing his warnings, Reynolds has little sympathy for Leary’s predicament.
“It’s like a training injury”, Lights tells him.
“You mean train-er injury”, Reynolds replies. “I told you that fool was nothing but trouble”.
Reynolds plays tough, insisting Leary needs the fight far more than he.
But we will later see that it is in fact Reynolds who desperately wants the fight to occur even more.
Money is a powerful motivator.
Ultimately though, it is Pride’s bitch.
Theresa is about to graduate med school and move on to her residency. We see her speaking with her mentor at school, telling him she will instead be seeking a job in the private sector.
“I can’t wait three more years to start earning an income,” she tells him.
Is she concerned for her husband’s health if financial pressure forces him to take more blows?
Or is she looking to become financially - and perhaps personally - independent?
A few episodes ago we saw that Brennan’s younger brother is also a physician. Lights meets with him to see if the healing process can be “sped up”. The doc ultimately per scribes a “cocktail” of drugs.
He assures Leary that it’s all legal, all legit.
We’ll see: If we follow “Leary’s Law”, we know that if it can go wrong for lights, it will.
Johnny is at the diner with Dillon and Margaret. Johnny is doing the whole estranged father thing, complete with the “so what’s the deal with your mom’s new boyfriend?” query. Dillon is bored, disengaged,
Margaret and Johnny discuss Light’s latest financial dilemma. Margaret suggest finding a backer. Johnny then asks her is she wouldn’t mind taking Dillon for a while.
“I got plans” she tells him.
Johnny all but falls out of his chair.
Apparently, sister Margaret hasn’t much of a social life, or at least she bristles at Johnny’s insinuation of such.
She leaves in a huff. A few moments later, as he stares out the window, Dillon asks “who’s that man with Aunt Margaret?”.
Johnny looks, and then goes straight for his cell phone.
We go to a scene in the Leary kitchens that highlights the dynamic of the relationship between Johnny and Theresa.
Johnny and Lights are discussing their sister.
“Hal Brennan?? Jesus Christ!”, Lights exclaims.
“Aunt Margaret’s got a boyfriend” Daniella announces to Theresa as she enters.
“Glad it worked out for her”, Theresa says dismissively.
Pause. “You know about this?” Lights asks his wife.
“He sounds like a gentleman”, Theresa replies.
Theresa is confused by the brothers apprehension. “You don’t get it Theresa” says Johnny.
“Enlighten me”, she replies annoyed.
Johnny: “Never mind. It’s a family thing”.
Theresa: Excuse me???
The scene does a good job of illustrating not only Theresa’s established resentment towards Johnny but perhaps her outright jealousy over the tight bond the Leary clan shares as she revealed in the last episode she is estranged from her own.
In the end, the two decide that Lights be the one to speak to Margaret regarding Brennan.
“I know what to say to her”, he says.
Remember those words: they may be prophetic regarding Leary’s dementia prognosis.
Sure enough, a less brash but still as inquisitive Mike Fumosa shows up at the gym.
And – in this episode’s funniest moment – he tells Lights that after losing his newspaper job, he spent time in a rehab facility in New Mexico.
“Remember my mother? Turns out she didn’t love me”, he jokes.
“I don’t blame her”, says Leary shrugging.
Lights got stabbed. Romeo disappeared. Fumosa wants the scoop.
He also reveals to Leary that Word is in fact in talks with other fighters, that the Reynolds fight is all but vanished.
Lights poo-poos it all but it leads to a phone call to Word, and to a scene where we see Word the businessman at work.
Word and Reynolds are together in what appears to be a very high end bar. Word, on the phone with Leary, assures him that he has not contacted other fighters, all is well, “Stay strong Patrick”, etc.
After hanging up, he explains his strategy to Reynolds: that Leary is buying time so that when he wants another postponement, it’ll be to late to find a substitute, that if Reynolds fights him now, he has a built in excuse for losing with the injury. Word is pushing for another opponent. Leary can wait.
Reynolds is hesitant, he wants Lights next, he wants to retire.
Word further attempts to convince him otherwise.
Why not squeeze two more paydays out of ”Death Row” if you can?
There’s a scene where Mrs. Reynolds spells this out for her husband, but his male ego refuses to believe he’s being manipulated.
Writers, I salute you.
Leary and Johnny are at the gym when Brennan’s goon enters and announces “the boss” wants a word with Lights.
In the office, Brennan tells Leary he “likes” Margaret.
“Just so we’re clear, you may be in bed with her, but that isn’t gonna help you get in bed with me”, Lights tells him.
Brennan urges Leary not to fight the scheduled date. That he needs time to heal. That Word is indeed shopping opponents. That he himself will cover Word’s 500K demand, thereby getting him the postponement.
And as always, Hal continually uses the term of endearment ”son”.
Leary rebuffs him and in a fine piece of acting by Bill Irwin as Brennan (seriously, this guy was a “Sesame Street” regular???) Brennan leaves, acting more personally wounded/rejected than angry.
Now comes the intervention with Margaret outside the diner. Lights informs her that Brennan is no choir boy.
“He’s a gangster, a known criminal!” Leary tells her.
“Is that better than being an unknown criminal?” Margaret replies.
Sure enough, Hal told his new girlfriend about the “job” he gave Lights in the series pilot (when he went to collect from the dentist, and ended up breaking the man’s arm).
As with Johnny, Margaret is noticeably sensitive to her older brothers meddling.
“He’s just using you to get to me” , Lights tells her.
“Of course”, Margaret replies. “No one could possibly like me for me”.
Again, you might think she’s irrationally flying off the handle, but then think about the Leary family make-up as we know it.
Johnny, the good looking, talented, devil-may-care middle brother and gifted fighter was obviously – despite Pop’s constant grumbling - the old man’s favorite. Patrick was the oldest, the leader and eventual boxing superstar. The family’s entire life centered around boxing which means it’s every aspect was male-egocentric.
Chances are, Margaret was pushed into the background.
She further spells out an indication of this when she tells Lights “I’ve done nothing but take care of you and dad and Johnny since mom left”.
I really cannot wait to see that plot line fleshed out.
Angrily, she orders her brother to stay away from the diner he purchased for her.
Lights eventually shows up at said diner with an apology and a bouquet. Margaret blows him off.
You wonder: as he has continually done with Johnny, will Leary betray his own moral code and beliefs to keep a sibling happy? Will he make nice with Brennan as much for Margaret’s sake as his own?
Not at first.
Outside, he meets Brennan. Leary throws him against a wall, warning him not to harm his sister.
Theresa’s doctor/mentor friend comes to the Leary home for dinner. During dinner the subject of her not completing her residency comes up.
Apparently she forgot to tell her husband, and he isn’t happy (we also learn where oldest daughter Ava is in all this: on a class trip in England which was mentioned a few episodes back).
Lights is not only agitated over the whole residency deal, he’s eyeing the flirty behaviour between Theresa and the doc.
Could it be our boy has a bit of the insecure jock syndrome? Afraid his girl might go for one of those book-smart fellas?
The doctor friend is uncomfortable. Daniella is eyeing how much wine Theresa is downing.
The phone rings and Johnny needs Lights at the gym – now.
We go to the gym and it’s Lights, Johnny and Fumosa. Fumosa is delivering the news that Word has in fact signed another opponent for Reynolds and that Reynolds is saying it will be his final bout.
Johnny attempts to craft an “official response” to counter the announcement. Fumosa casually mentions that he received all his info from Reynolds who happens to be at his wife’s restaurant.
Fumosa offers his condolences. Johnny offers to try an contact Brennan.
In a deluxe moment for Holt Mccallany, Lights tells Johnny to let it go.
But the look on his face clearly says, it hasn’t even gotten started.
Reynolds is at his wife’s fine dining establishment. The champ is having dinner with a group of people, Word included.
Lights approaches and wants a word with Reynolds (Word instinctively rises, only to have Leary inform him it’s strictly between the fighters).
They step outside and the back and fourth begins: who’s ducking who, who’s afraid of who, who owes who, etc.
Mcallany is again very, very good here: we already know Leary is an adept liar. Here, we see as an extension, he’s just as adroit a manipulator.
It gets heated. Lights brings up Romeo, Reynolds troubled childhood, how he’s essentially Word’s puppet.
Onlookers. Cell phones come out and video recording begins.
Cut to a brief shot of Word inside the restaurant watching the escalating confrontation. You can almost read his thoughts.
Oh you sneaky son of a bitch! I see what you’re doing.
“You’re nothing but Barry’s little house boy!” Leary yells.
Last check, the word “boy” and a black man’s presence are as quick a way to get Leary’s intended result as any.
Reynolds throws the first punch. Leary returns fire. They wrestle and crash through the restaurants front bay window.
The next morning, after making bail, Reynolds is with his wife in their kitchen.
And he ain’t happy.
He wants Lights – now. Leary must pay.
Wife tries to calm him and good acting here by Billy Brown as Reynolds: Both Leary, and his own wife, have planted the suggestion of doubt in his head.
Lights out rightly accused him of cowardice, and his wife’s urging him to take on the substitute opponent and call it a day has him thinking even she questions his chances against Leary.
His warrior’s/athlete’s/manhood’s ability queried, Reynolds becomes enraged.
This is significant as 1) the character has been relatively cool, collected and assured until now and 2) we just might be beginning to see that Leary is every bit the shrewd games-man that is Barry Word.
That notion is further evidenced when we see the following day that the street fight is a youtube sensation, the ESPNs, talk shows and internet all abuzz.
Checkmate, Patrick Leary.
Did we mention that Theresa is graduating med school today?
Leary kitchen: girls getting ready. Johnny brings the recently bailed and beat up Lights through the door.
Theresa, fresh off the tense dinner moment the night before, is not happy.
“You’ve got ten minutes”. she tells him.
The graduation ceremony (very nicely presented, btw. You can say this much for the production company: they ain’t skimping on set design). Johnny and Dillon are running late. Theresa is with her class in cap and gown.
Lights is seated in the audience, sporting a ridiculous pair of dark shades in an effort to conceal his injuries.
At the very moment Theresa walks across the stage to receive her diploma, Johnny’s cell phone of course rings.
It’s Fumosa: Johnny rushes to Lights, whispering to him that the street fight was a hit, everyone is talking, everyone wants Leary-Reynolds III.
As Theresa receives her medal and the crowd applauds, she looks out into the audience.
Her husband and his brother only have eyes for one another.
Margaret has brought her new beau to the reception. Johnny, Lights and Hal speak.
Brennan again reiterates his offer to handle the financial dealings with Word.
“How much?” Johnny asks, referring to Brennan’s cut.
Brennan gestures towards Margaret and says “don’t worry about it. We’re almost family now”.
The whole deal-with-the-devil thing is a bit forced, but Lights and Brennan shake hands.
“Just get me to the fight” Leary says.