Skip to main content

Film Reviews Review: Canadian Sikh boxing drama Tiger puts up an admirable fight, but its punches just don’t land

Mickey Rourke, right, and Prem Singh, left, in Tiger.

R3M Pictures

  • Tiger
  • Directed by Alister Grierson
  • Written by Prem Singh and Michael Pugliese
  • Starring Prem Singh, Michael Pugliese and Mickey Rourke
  • Classification PG
  • 100 minutes

rating

There is no great time to release a middling boxing movie, but the week after Creed II comes out is probably the worst. Granted, the low-budget drama Tiger cannot be fairly pitted against the Rocky franchise’s massive Hollywood resources. And Creed II’s Michael B. Jordan is a special effect unto himself, which no actor could hope to match.

Yet any sports film, no matter its scale or handicap, has to land its narrative and aesthetic punches – and Tiger clings to the ropes more often than not.

Story continues below advertisement

Terrible sports puns aside, there’s something admirable about Tiger’s genesis. The story of Ontario athlete Pardeep Singh Nagra, an aspiring Sikh boxer who faced prejudice in and out of the ring, is an inspirational one that ticks all the obvious genre boxes. And the determination of Canadian screenwriters and co-stars Prem Singh (who plays Nagra) and Michael Pugliese (Nagra’s rival) to get the movie made shouldn’t be easily discounted. Unable to find financing at home, the pair went to the United States, partnering with Los Angeles-based R3M Productions and changing Nagra’s nationality to American. Singh and Pugliese also staked out Mickey Rourke’s L.A. boxing gym, convincing the actor to play Nagra’s coach after walking up cold to the Wrestler star.

Yet Tiger is a movie that’s all mewls. Nagra is introduced as a frustrated athlete whose only trait is pent-up anger, and he remains that cipher throughout the film. There’s a treacly romance between the boxer and his lawyer (Janel Parrish) that feels shoehorned, a mid-film twist involving Rourke’s grizzled trainer that’s egregious, and a handful of stop-the-action speeches where all the film’s big themes are neatly, embarrassingly laid out. What’s worse is the boxing scenes themselves, which lack visual finesse and feel far too bloodless to be taken seriously.

I’m happy that the always interesting Rourke is getting steady work – while managing to convince producers that every scene he’s in must also feature his Pomeranian – and that Nagra’s story is now more out in the world than before. But in the best boxing movies, the hits only matter if we care for the characters delivering and enduring them. Here, any and all wounds feel superficial.

Tiger opens Nov. 30 in Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Vancouver, and Surrey, B.C.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter