Tim Sutton’s Donnybrook got the Platform strand off to a bracing start, with its stark portrayal of the effects of meth addiction on rural America. Based on the 2012 novel by Frank Bill, it stars Jamie Bell as Jarhead Earl, an ex-soldier who needs to find some extra cash, fast, while his wife’s homicidal dealer (Frank Grillo) pursues. Said Sutton, “The movie deals with a group of people who are on their way to a bare-knuckle cage fight in the middle of the woods where the winner gets $100,000—and supposedly a piece of the American dream.”
Stopping by the Deadline studio with Bell, Grillo and co-star Margaret Qualley, Sutton explained that Bill’s novel had struck a personal chord with him. “I grew up with some people who came right out of the book,” he said, “so I felt really attached to it right away. I think the most important thing for me was, I didn’t want to make a fight film. What I wanted to make was a very soulful film about what the country’s like today. It started with the book, but then the screenplay really evolved into something deeper and richer and even more controversial.”
Bell agreed that the real themes of the film were poverty and desperation. “I think all of these characters are in the same kind of position,” he mused. “They’re all just barely surviving, scraping along, and just managing to kind of keep it together. Earl is faced with a dilemma—his family are kind of falling apart, the woman he’s with is on some kind of horrible spiraling descent, and so he’s forced into making a decision, which is why he needs to go to his cage fight. He has to win to save his family, to get them out of the spiral.
“It’s a real road movie,” he continued. “I think an influence for me and Tim was the character of Willard from Apocalypse Now, a character who’s just going up the river to some unknown destination, to some unknown thing that he needs to figure out by himself, and maybe learn something about himself along the way.”
Find out more about Donnybrook by clicking the video above.