Golden Arm REVIEW – Full of Wit & Friendship | MFF 2020

Golden Arm is a fun and thrilling jaunt through the world of professional arm wrestling.

Golden Arm
Image from film

When you think of a typical buddy comedy, a few examples come to mind: Roger Murtaugh & Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon, Jake & Elwood Blues from The Blues Brothers, and Beca & The Bellas in Pitch Perfect. However, when pro arm wrestler Danny “the Dominator” (Betsy Sodaro) and her worrisome best friend Melanie (Mary Holland) go on a journey to compete in a national arm wrestling tournament with $15,000 on the line, let’s just say that this new buddy comedy becomes far from typical.

In the debut feature film from director Maureen Bharoocha, Golden Arm is a fairly linear story that doesn’t have the greatest complexity or dynamic character development, but the level of comedy and wit that is present saves this outing from being just a boring sports film.

Melanie is broke. As a solo bakery owner that is dealing with a divorce, a malfunctioning oven, and disrespecting patrons that toss her scones in the trash, Mel needs a change of pace and some cash as fast as possible. Luckily for her, Danny offers her frantic friend a chance to tag team on a truck driving job, in exchange for some of Danny’s earnings. But unknown to Mel, Danny recently got injured in an arm wrestling match with rival Brenda “the Bonecrusher” (Olivia Stambouliah), who is seeking to eliminate all competition and become the national grand slam champion. Determined to get back at Brenda, Danny sees her timid best friend as a ringer from their college years of arm wrestling and secretly decides to use her to win the tournament and end the Bonecrusher’s ambitions.

From the outset, one of the highlights of Golden Arm is the strength of Danny and Melanie’s friendship. The relationship between a rambunctious Danny and a shy Melanie comes across as both comical and heart-warming here. Both friends support each other, no matter the obstacles that are presented by the plot, and both give each other assistance in any lacking character traits. Mel becomes more fearless and confident as she hangs around Danny and gets pumped up when Danny tells her, “You’re badass!” This animated dialogue between the friends and their care for each other make the movie easy to watch and a joy to experience.

But really, this is a campy film across the board. With an interesting plot centered on arm wrestling, Betsy Sodero’s outlandish dialogue and her portrayal of Danny, and some hilarious interactions between Brenda and Melanie all add so much to the lighthearted tone of the film. It is really hard to stop smiling throughout as there is a lot to enjoy from the antics that happen on-screen. Maureen Bharoocha’s expertise as the former comedic director of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” shines throughout this film and the narrative almost feels like an extended skit from a sketch comedy show. The director has done a remarkable job leading her first film and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here.

While the film is a fun and thrilling jaunt through the world of professional arm wrestling, the plot is quite simple and the pacing is a straight shot to the end. No character is overly complicated nor does anyone have any deep revelations or thoughts by the end credits. The film also tries a bit too hard to make the audience laugh sometimes, diluting the power of the dialogue in some scenes. Plus, how Melanie possesses incredible power to arm wrestle is simply glossed over in the story, and it is hard to believe that such an unassuming lady has Herculean strength compared to seasoned veterans. Overall, this is a film that doesn’t go the extra mile to bring a sense of depth to the narrative.

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Golden Arm
Though not the most thought-provoking or sophisticated film, Golden Arm does a great job with its lighthearted background and comedic dialogue, displaying a progressive and hysterical journey that is backed by a delightful companionship of friends.