Nick (Nick Sasso) is a retired Muay Thai fighter who used to be a force in the ring in Haymaker. Now he has hung up the gloves and works security at a club. One evening, Nick is luckily in the right place at the right time. Nomi (Nomi Ruiz), who preformed at the club that evening, was getting assaulted by a thug and Nick intervenes. To show her appreciation, Nomi immediately offers Nick a job as her bodyguard. She will text him when she needs him, and he is to protect her from her adoring fans.
Nick and Nomi begin to spend more time together, and the line between professional and personal begins to blur. At first Nick tries to keep a respectable distance to his employer, but Nomi draws him closer. Small things in the beginning – having him walk with her instead of a short distance behind. Before long they are shopping, partying, and spending off hours together. Nick and Nomi learn more about each other’s lives and Nomi goes so far as to introduce Nick to her mother. Nick finds out that Nomi is transgender and doesn’t even think twice about it – accepting her for who she is. The tension between them continues to rise as this ambiguity of their status consumes them both.
Haymaker is the brainchild of Nick Sasso as he stars, writes, and directs the film. I respect taking on all three of these aspects, especially as this is his first project in any of those roles. Unfortunately, most of the film falls flat. Sasso impressed me most in his direction. Parts of the film looked almost graphic novelesque. Bright red lipstick, blurred backgrounds, Nomi playing the role of femme fatale entering Nick’s life. Sasso gives us disorienting shots – mixing light, flashes, and music to match what the characters are feeling on screen. These aspects worked well, and Haymaker could have used more of them. The other two aspects of the film were lackluster.
The script is forgettable and at times head scratching. As Nick is trying to get an understanding of Nomi and her antics, the audience is as well. Their chemistry on screen leaves a lot to be desired and I found myself having trouble truly caring about the characters. Sasso shows very little emotion and sucks the energy out of scenes. Nomi is energetic and charismatic, always in stark contrast to Nick and his blandness. When the credits begin rolling, it is not clear exactly what type of film Sasso was going for. There are a bunch of underdeveloped ideas – their working relationship, their personal relationship, Nick’s fighting career – that deserved more time to hash out. Haymaker just doesn’t deliver that true knockout punch and will leave you more frustrated than entertained.