Reviewed by: Ken James
Movie Review: Reversal
Reversal is the kind of film you want to like. Reminiscent of Pete Maravich’s basketball-related life story in The Pistol, or Rudy Ruettiger’s football-focused Rudy, Reveral is the true-life story of James Petulla’s school-aged years growing up in the shadows of Pittsburgh. The story centers on a former state champ wrestling coach (played marvelously by James Petulla) and his prize son, Leo Leone (Danny Mousetis as a high schooler, Derrick Nelson as a 7-year old) as the two work together toward the goal of making Leo into another state champ. We see the ups and downs of two lives focused on being the best, but at what cost?
If you shrug this off as another testosterone-filled Rocky wannabe, you’d be missing the bigger picture. While Reversal takes us into the world of high-school wrestling, it does so as a love story between father and son. Dad the Coach works himself to the core to give his son what he never had: a chance at a better life. The plan is that if Leo can prove himself as a wrestling champion, university scouts will notice him and offers will pour in for full-ride scholarships. With a college degree, Dad sees the possibilities at a good job for his son become endless, certainly taking him away from the blue color steel industry of Western PA.
This plan might sound well and good, except that after ten years of wrestling and serious physical abuse to make the required weight at each match, Leo tires of the sport and of always following his fathers desires. As the viewer, we know what each one thinks–father and son. We ache because we know their good intentions, but instead see Leo as a trapped teen unsure how to stand up for himself. As Leo finds himself, his father must come to the realization that his son must make his own path in the world. Dad must let go of his beloved son . . . the hardest thing to do.
Some of the underlying themes brought up in the film include underage drinking, driving while intoxicated, death, and a loveless marriage. Perhaps the strongest theme of Reversal is the timely topic of “how far should a parent push to make their kid the best.” Recent headlines indicate that same parents go way too far. There must be a balance, and this topic is wonderfully explored here. Moral themes of forgiveness, sacrifice and familial love between father and son run strong.
While you are not likely to see this film at the local theater, there is the chance that it could be playing in your area. Endorsement of this film come from a virtual “Whose Who” in the wrestling world: Danny Hodge (Olympic Wrestler, Heavyweight Boxing Champ), Kurt Angle (Olympic Wrestling Gold-Medallist and WWF Champ), Jack Spates of O.U., Kendall Cross, and others. The excitement over this film is building gradually, and with the mere half a mil spent on this film, the technical strengths of screenplay, acting, and filming work well.