Directed by: Pablo Croce
I am not a movie reviewer, be warned. If you're looking for a legit review, hit up youtube, amazon or rotten tomatoes -- there seems to be plenty of people there, more qualified to share their thoughts than I am from what I've gathered.
I AM a huge MMA fan. I've been following the sport of MMA long before it was recognized as one, or was really even referred to as MMA in the states. I've watched fights from other countries, tournaments from different disciplines of martial arts, and have been asked to share my thoughts on more than one occasion for affiliated websites, videos & podcasts. It's become the sport I follow the most, and anyone that knows me well, could probably support dedication to fastest growing sport, MMA.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed on a podcast and we were discussing a movie I worked on. I was pretty passionate and excited to discuss the film, but about an hour in, the host wanted to switch gears and talk MMA. He too is a big fan and contributor to a few websites, and for me that was the real fun of the interview!
Well, a few days later, I made a post on twitter before I watched this documentary and a few people asked that I share my thoughts, so here we are. Because I've had to sort through a fair share of reviews lately, I decided I'd just put together a little review of my own.
*NOTE, I'm sure you know this, but there are lots of subtitles throughout the film.
LIKE WATER follows the story of UFC Middleweight Champion and arguably the #1 Pound for Pound fighter in the world, Anderson "The Spider" Silva.
This movie isn't going to satisfy the viewer looking for the story of Anderson's entire life. While we get bits and pieces, it quickly becomes clear that we will be hopping on the running train that leads to his title clash with then #1 Contender, Chael Sonnen. While I still feel the movie will engage the casual fan, it really will be appreciated by those who have been following the drama between Silva and Sonnen for the past two years.
The movie begins and feels like an episode of the UFC countdown show, in fact, I know I've seen some of the footage previously. I instantly found myself wondering if we were going to be shown any footage of the rib injury Silva allegedly suffered in the weeks leading up to the bout.
We see Anderson training and he is HUGE. It's no secret that he walks around close to the 220lb mark, but he looks massive in the footage. *Editor's side note: anyone that still is hellbent on the ridiculous GSP/Silva super fight, you should watch this movie to get a strong clue as to why this matchup is completely silly...except for your xbox of course.
We see Mark Munoz who was brought in to help Silva prep for Chael's wrestling. Whether or not Munoz should be fired, is a different story. They are going hard on Anderson, and he is making it known while he recovers between rounds saying everyone is, "so strong." He communicates this as calm and mild mannered as we've seen him in past interviews, and you start to understand that he is just very much that person. It's very much a spiritual thing for him.
There's a moment where Anderson is doing an appearance and we see him smiling for pictures and signing autographs. Once the champ is finished, Silva's manager, Ed Soares comes over and asks what he had been writing. Apparently, he heard Silva had been writing portuguese words along with his signature. Soares, teasingly but almost hopefully asks if he was writing, "Go fuck yourself!" Anderson humbly replied, "No, I wrote, I am not the best, but I can achieve the impossible." It was equal parts humble, honest and self affirming. It felt very much like a pep talk as much as it was a strong statement.
As scary and untouchable as Anderson may seem in a quick view of a highlight reel, it's hard to ignore his easy going and affable attitude amongst his peers. Leading up to the fight, he had been the subject of great criticism from fans, media, Sonnen and his own boss, UFC President, Dana White. His previous fight with Demian Maia had attracted a lot of negative attention because of his in ring antics. It was believed by some, myself included, that Silva was sending a message and was frustrated with the level of competitors the UFC was setting up for him. He was not being challenged and was showing his discontent. Silva had made it clear that he wanted to be challenged. In the summer of 2008 he said he wanted to fight at least 3 more fights before years end. He was also campaigning for a boxing match with Roy Jones Jr., and that never happened. It was more than clear he desired tougher competition. I personally never found as much fault as others had for his behavior, because I found it honorable that he wanted to be tested. Regardless of the backlash, Silva held his ground and there is a great scene in the movie between he (and at the time recently defeated UFC Light Heavyweight Champion) Lyoto Machida.
We see Anderson wrapping his hands as he is preparing for a training session and he is talking to Machida about the dangers of playing into the brawling game that the fans and the UFC had been looking for from him. He asked Lyoto what would happen if he obliged and lost, and then got cut from the company. While I believe anyone would be hard pressed to believe the UFC would drop the Middleweight King, there was some truth to his words and you could see it in Machida's eyes. It was almost like it was a coach talking to his pupil. Lyoto was agreeing and understood that if you stuck to the game plan, eventually the opponent would make a mistake and you could then capitalize. At the time that scene was filmed, Lyoto had just lost to Shogun Rua and was prepping for his fight against Rampage, which he would also go on to lose. I found this interesting considering that for a while, many people found Machida's style, boring and he ended up changing to be more aggressive and eventually encountered his first couple of losses after his change in style.
Another great scene shows Anderson talking about the Nogueira brothers, specifically, Minotoro. Silva gave great praise to Little Nog for the support he offered Anderson during a time when Silva wanted to hang up the gloves and just teach. Minotoro convinced him to continue fighting and obviously it has led to such great things for Anderson and his family. Silva is seen talking to Minotoro and he promises that he will make Sonnen tap out. In an almost comical delayed reaction, Minotoro says, "...No. You'll KO" to which Anderson replies no, he will submit him to honor the Nogueira's. After the Sonnen match, Silva claimed in an interview, that he promised the Nogueira's he would submit Chael to honor them and this was the scene that proved it.
We then see a UFC press conference that was done via telephone. This is usually a massive conference call, where media fires off questions, and the fighters answer as needed. Anderson's answers are simple one or two word responses and you can tell he was not in a position where he wanted to give more than that. It's at this point where we begin to see the repeat questions getting to the champ. He is ready to let his actions speak. We see Ed Soares listening in, clearly upset as he listens to Silva's answers. Dana immediately calls, and Soares communicates his apologies and relays that Anderson doesn't understand how to, "sell" a fight, or he doesn't care.
It has been speculated in the MMA circles, that Soares has intentionally miscommunicated things when serving as translator for Silva to help hype their fights, manipulating the questions or answers given. We get little tastes of this throughout the movie, which is interesting considering Soares serves as one of the Writers and Producers on the film.
About 10 days out from the fight, we see Anderson training and he takes a breather, while he holds his ribs. He's seen cringing and we are led to believe this was the incident that caused the rib injury.
We are shown a scene where Soares is enjoying Chael's antics, it's clear Chael knows how to hype a fight and Soares appreciates his efforts. On the flip side, Anderson is shown almost having to be dragged out of his hotel room to fulfill a promise of time spent with some fans. It's more of a joking manner from Anderson, but you get the feeling that these fighters get to a point, where they just need their space to get ready for their fight. After all, they will be locked in a CAGE with someone standing across from them, that wants to hurt them badly.
The night before the fight Silva is being interviewed from his bed and he says he talks to god and only ask's to do what needs to be done -- win or lose. He is truly leaving it in god's hands. Someone asks a question, "What do you want?" Smiling and without hesitation, he answers that he only wishes to come back to his family in one piece, as they will always call him a champ, win or lose.
If you are interested in this movie, you probably already know the outcome of the fight-- Silva, after getting completely dominated for close to 5 rounds, manages to pull a submission victory off, minutes before Sonnen's hand would be raised. Sonnen also tested positive for the use of performance enhancing drugs after his loss. A sad discovery, that instantly created a stir for the two fighters. Chael's dominating performance humanized Silva, but also left many questions as it was speculated that Chael did so, while cheating. With bad ribs, andouille facing an opponent who was cheating, Silva still proved his greatness and overcame like a true champ.
All in all, I very much enjoyed the film and the intimate look into this part of Silva's life. I also think the viewer will come to appreciate much more about Anderson's ways, which really revolve around what appears as great honesty, humility and a great passion for faith in god and his family.
I definitely recommend watching the film and believe the movie will no doubt serve as a great marketing tool for the Silva vs Sonnen rematch scheduled to take place on July 7th.