Review: Conor McGregor: Notorious

“This is just mad,” I turned to my friend five minutes before a sold-out 9pm showing of Conor McGregor: Notorious. 

Sold out showings, on a weekday night no less, are normally reserved for the biggest of Hollywood blockbuster.  This was just another bizarre reminder that there is seemingly no end to the Crumlin mixed martial artist’s ascent into super-stardom.

It wasn’t just young males obsessed with violence flocking to the screen; viewers of all ages and backgrounds sat around me. No one can deny that he has captured the imagination of the whole country, be that for the right or wrong reasons.

Conor McGregor: Notorious is a slickly produced 90 minute time capsule chronicling the rise and rise of McGregor. It shouldn’t be surprising that such a film now exists given how the man has already lived through a real-life Hollywood story. 

In the space of four years, McGregor went from being an aspiring fighter in a sport barely anyone in Ireland had even heard of, collecting social welfare checks, to becoming one of the most famous sportsmen in the world.

If the documentary was able to fully utilise and follow this narrative, it would have been far more invigorating than this end product. Instead, the ‘rags’ element to this rags to riches story is confined to the film’s first ten minutes (if you want to see more of this side of the coin, seek out the RTÉ tv series ‘Notorious).

Instead, we’re treated to inside footage of some of McGregor’s most pivotal fight camps, with intense training and sacrifice mixed in with lavish spending and indulgence.

You probably could have guessed that though, and that is where the main flaw lies in this film; for a documentary you don’t learn a lot more about the man than fans probably had already seen or heard.

If you can get past these flaws, and the incessant wealth being flashed before you, there is still plenty to enjoy about ‘Notorious’.

Even if you’d expect it to reveal more, this documentary will still serve as the most personal view of McGregor, his family and his teammates. Anyone who questions the work that mixed martial arts like him put in should treat scenes such as McGregor struggling through training for his first world title fight as essential viewing.

It definitely plays into the ‘Notorious’ persona we are now used to when we see McGregor in the spotlight, but it also shows us the man at his most vulnerable, such as the aftermath of his first UFC loss to Nate Diaz (who is presented as a Terminator-esque, final boss antagonist excellently).

There’s an excellent supporting cast in the form of appearances from his long time girlfriend Dee Devlin, head coach John Kavanagh and even an equally amusing and cringe-inducing cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

The direction from Gavin Fitzgerald and the films editing also need to be commended. There’s nothing too flashy here, but the story that is being told is done simply, yet effectively. It’s also punctuated by an excellent original score that makes every fight feel as dramatic as possible.

Ultimately, this film will probably do little to convert McGregor’s legion of naysayers and be treated as excellent fan service to his equally passionate group of followers.

Conor McGregor: Notorious may not be as amazing as some of the other things he has accomplished, but is still an enjoyable, albeit one-sided, story of a journey from the bottom to the top and a feel-good story that hard work does pay off.

Is this the real Conor McGregor, warts and all? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy following ‘The Notorious’.

7/10

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