Fighting To Find The Truth – Notorious (Film Review)

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Whether you like him or not, there’s no doubt that most people know the name Conor McGregor these days. He’s a one man promotional machine with a strong understanding that his ‘brand’ only gets out there if people are talking, and that doesn’t just happen through training and fighting well. He may be a a UFC fighter but McGregor has evolved into so much more than that. He’s much closer to a WWE wrestler in terms of the way he promotes his fights, cutting promos and trash talking his way into the headlines. That style isn’t for everyone and certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way but does Conor care? Clearly not when he’s walking around with expensive suits and driving fast cars. But the burning question is what is it like to be a UFC fighter behind the facade and away from the media? New documentary Notorious, pitched as the ‘official account of the rise of a sporting icon,’ looks to give us a peek behind the curtain at who the real Conor McGregor is.

Documentaries are tough to produce. There’s always some sort of agenda behind them, very rarely showing all sides to the story, and you have to accept that you’re only seeing what the director decides to show you. That construct of truth means that you’re not really getting the truth at all but that doesn’t mean they can’t be an entertaining and interesting watch. That’s what Notorious is – an intriguing and curious look at the man that is Conor McGregor but nothing entirely groundbreaking. Not every documentary can break down walls, expose hidden secrets or change the world and director Gavin Fitzgerald doesn’t look to do that. Instead we’re made to feel like we’re lucky to be invited along to McGregor’s world, something very few people get to be a part of, and it’s sold as the place to be in 2017. As a viewer we’re now treated as a member of the elite.

Whether you’re a UFC fan or not really isn’t that relevant to your enjoyment of Notorious. McGregor is such a fascinating character that you soon become absorbed in his approach to life and his work ethic. He’s an undoubtedly smart man and his knowledge of playing the media game is second to none. He takes calculated risks where necessary but on the whole he never gets too out of his depth. He works hard for his successes and has such self-belief that it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, and more often than not he’s in complete control. That’s the feeling you get with Notorious too – this is all about how much Conor wants to allow us to see, and it’s just enough to titillate but never to expose. From where he’s come from to where he is now McGregor’s story is undoubtedly a journey worth following and you do end up respecting the man behind the loud-mouth front more than ever.

His personal relationships make him a better man and he never forgets where he’s come from. Conor has been with Dee Devlin since 2008 and is clearly a loyal husband and recent father and his motivation comes from a good place. He wants to be the best, he sees himself as the best at anything he puts his mind to, and he’s certainly come a long way from fighting in Dublin. Here we speed through his earlier career which is a shame but understandably there’s far more footage from UFC and his rivalries with José Aldo and Nate Diaz. Both provided emotional rollercoasters including injuries, trash talking and setbacks but overall McGregor always finds a way to come out on top. It’s important to see how much effort he puts in to his fitness and fighting as it really puts that mouthy Irishman image into perspective and allows you to see him in a whole new light. Plus when he gets childishly excited at Arnie being at his house you just know you’d react the same.

The truth is that after the 90 minutes we spend looking at Conor and his life, you almost feel like you haven’t even scratched the surface. Fitzgerald has done a fantastic job of capturing some iconic moments and it’s a credit to him that you come out of Notorious wishing it could have been a series rather than a short documentary. It’s a simple case of being restricted by the medium and the running time and having to make editing choices too. The time jumps you would love to have filled in and other areas could easily have been elaborated on, and you could argue with the Alvarez and Mayweather fights this documentary was almost made too soon. For what it is Notorious is a decent look at one of the biggest names in the world currently and well worth a watch. Just don’t expect a completely fulfilling documentary piece as you’ll undoubtedly be hungry for more. After watching this it’s hard to disagree with Conor McGregor’s place in fighting history.

Director: Gavin Fitzgerald
Cast: Conor McGregor, Dana White, Nate Diaz, José Aldo, Dee Devlin, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Country: US/Ireland
Year: 2017
Run time: 90 mins

Notorious is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital now.