Tiger is meant to be an inspiring story about a Sikh, Pardeep Singh Nagra (played by Prem Singh), who defied all odds to do what he loved, competitive boxing. I was initially intrigued by the film because it is based on a true story, involved Mr. Nagra as a consultant, and included Mickey Rourke in the role of Pardeep’s coach and mentor. Directed by Alister Grierson, Tiger unfortunately makes so many storytelling concessions, they might as well have had Rourke play the main character himself. The plotting is so generic the film loses its way. The story of Tiger is no longer about a Sikh struggling to overcome racism and religious discrimination.
The film is filled to overflowing with all of the boxing tropes you have come to expect from nearly every boxing film that came before. The end result feels like trying to watch all the Rocky movies simultaneously. There is a love interest, Charlotte (played by Janel Parrish), who (surprise) is Pardeep’s coach’s daughter, who is also (surprise) Pardeep’s lawyer, just so we can put them together into as many scenes as possible. Rourke’s character, Frank Donovan, is (surprise) also suffering from some degenerative disease. Each of these story elements would be enough for a single film, but here the important details become lost. Concerns over Donovan’s deteriorating health are brought up in a single scene and just as quickly dropped (or forgotten). Rourke’s role is sadly underwritten, giving him a single scene to actually have a performance. Every other appearance by Rourke in the film has him either muttering and mumbling incoherently or repeating the same three lines of boxing advice ad nauseum.
Perhaps the only ray of hope in the film is the performance of Singh, an actor capable of much more than Tiger offers. Instead, Singh is stuck playing a character who has to act clueless for half of the film and incapable of managing his rage for the other half. At the beginning of the film, Pardeep is a disgraced soccer player who turns to boxing as an outlet for his endless rage. Then follows perhaps the most unconvincing training montage I have ever seen. From the first scene, Prem’s body is already built for boxing, not soccer, and the film does not bother to hide that. As Nagra, Singh physically lashes out at so many people that one is left fearing for Charlotte in any possible relationship scenario that could result.
Tiger is a disappointment on many levels but more so because of what it could have been. I was hoping for a nuanced exploration of an oft overlooked religion and the degrees of observance and expression contained within. The film hints at this at times but then retreats into the type of romantic scenarios that you would expect to find from a Hallmark channel movie. I know that if my religious beliefs were given short shrift the way Sikhism is in this film, I would be severely upset. Utterly disappointing, I cannot recommend this film to anyone.