Genre: Action/Dark Comedy/Cinematic Pro Wrestling (Yes, really)
Year Released: 2020
Running Time: 25 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Being the Elite, Escaping the Midcard, Nacho Libre, Walk Like a Panther, Sean of the Dead, Kung Fu Hustle,
-This is streaming on YouTube.
-This review was written prior to Bobbi Tyler signing with NXT UK and going under the Stevie Turner moniker with that federation. She will be addressed by her original ring name in this review.
-You Are Cordially Invited was directed by British pro wrestler Charles Crowley (Real name: Richard Summers-Calvert). In wrestling, he did commentator work for Progress Wrestling before managing Welsh wrestler Elijah who is also a cast member in this film and won the Golden Envelope Scramble Match at Wrestling Resurgence. Outside of the squared circle, Crowley has acted and directed other films with his company Crucible Films. His directorial work consists of movies such as Drive Me to the End, Within the Fray, and Indie Film to name a few. Crowley has also acted in Waterside, The Morning After, and even had a bit role as a guard in the Maleficent live action movie. That’s right, The Rock isn’t the only wrestler to be in a Disney flick.
-This is the 2nd review I’ve written (and 3rd post with my Top 7 Non-Actors Who Should Act list) that features Chuck Mambo. He was actually trained by Eddie Dennis which partially explains his presence in the Pride of Wales’s documentary other than them being real life friends. His ring name comes from a surfer friend of his named Chuck and Mambo is a variant of “mamba” after watching an episode of The Crocodile Hunter of all things years ago where Steve Irwin dealt with a black mamba. Some of Mambo’s accolades include being the inaugural Riptide Brighton Champion, 4-time Attack! 24:7 Champion, TCW Champion for Tidal, won the 2018 Progress World Cup, and was an EWA Tag Team Champ alongside TK Cooper as Escaping the Midcard (now known as Sunshine Machine). The pogo stick he had in the film is a reference to him pogo-ing for miles in London on Halloween 2020 to raise money for charity to help refugees.
-Classical Music Fan Bonus/High Art Bonus: The only wrestler to get their theme song played is Cara Noir. His theme song is none other than Tchaikovsky’s “No. 14 Scene Finale Swan Theme (Moderato)” from Swan Lake. Given his over-dramatic Black Swan gimmick, it makes way too much sense.
-Progress Wrestling fans might find some aspects more awesome in hindsight with the timing of this review. The aforementioned Cara Noir is the current Progress Unified World Champion and has a long run with that title. Kanji is the current Women’s Champion since winning the Best of 3 series against Canadian wrestler Gisele Shaw back in May. Kid Lykos II is one half of the Tag Team Champions alongside record-breaking 4X Tag Champ Kid Lykos (I) as the Lykos Gym. Lykos II also set a record by winning the title with Lykos at only 18 years old at the Tag Team Tournament finals this year against the Young Guns which makes him not just the youngest Tag Champ, but the youngest person ever to win Progress gold in general.
-Animation Fan Bonus: There is a scene where a character dies after going to their home planet. That is a clear Simpsons reference with the Poochie character in The Itchy & Scratchy Show in a notable episode. There’s also a painting of Beavis in the background during one scene.
-Two of the wrestlers in this film actually have Law degrees. They would be none other than Big T Justice and Warren Banks. The former even has a job as a lawyer in real life. I wouldn’t be messing with a 7 foot tall attorney at all.
-The ending theme is “Taitari Romance” by Souichi Sakagami feat. Gumi which is the theme song from J-Drama webseries Ume Love Story.
-Former WWE wrestler (or superstar if you’re Vince McMahon) The Great Khali actually makes a cameo after the credits. Yeah, that actually happened.
2020 was a terrible year which we can all agree on. The BritWres scene was certainly no exception. After the middle of March, there were no matches going on until about September with the exception of the social isolation matches on YouTube with Chuck Mambo, TK Cooper, and Eddie Dennis which were very fun and creative. Even then, the only games in town that year in the empty arena era have been from RevPro, WWE’s NXT UK developmental system, and to a much lesser extent of Manchester-based Futureshock Wrestling having two smaller social distanced shows late in the year. COVID does ruin everything, but that wasn’t the only issue. #SpeakingOut became wrestling’s #MeToo moment as several wrestlers, trainers, referees, federation owners, and other personnel from the indies all the way to the major leagues were exposed for being abusive to various people. This even affected my reviews of Road Back to Malice and South Pacific Power Couple when it came to brief cameos that became very problematic in hindsight (the latter really hurt since it was written and posted weeks before #SpeakingOut happened). So many avenues to make an honest living have been lost and the scene needed safeguarding to make sure no devils get involved. Thankfully, there were plenty of good people who wanted to do something with their craft while having a safe environment to do so with the right people and to avoid COVID-19.
Someone wanted to end 2020 with a bang with this giant darkly comedic free-for-all in short film form on New Year’s Eve.
You Are Cordially Invited takes place in an underground wrestling venue that’s beneath a tiny circus tent. Invitations were sent to so many wrestlers across the UK and Ireland by the extremely eccentric circus-themed wrestler Charles Crowley. He sympathized with them with not being able to hone their skills, so he sets up a last person standing match where anything goes. Chaos ensues in this arena as people fight, use weapons, take brief snack breaks, and let out all their aggression after being in lockdown for so long.
This was a crazy way to send off 2020 for the indie BritWres scene after all the insanity and tragedy that happened that year. It was awesome seeing various wrestlers that I know in that scene being a part of something very fun after not seeing matches from them for several months. If the hardcore smarks are going to see a technical match, then this isn’t for them. They did so many hilarious as well as high-impact spots and choreography there. One funny part among many for me was that submission chain where everyone was giving each other an armbar or a chokehold to each other. Another hilarious scene was Warren Banks putting Mad Kurt through a table just after Crowley finished setting up the snacks and casually eats a pretzel. Everybody pausing during Cara Noir’s dramatic entrance was certainly amusing especially if anyone has seen his work in the indie wrestling scene. The production looked high-caliber and almost Hollywood-like in production quality. Everything was well-lit and it legitimately had a cinematic action feel to the whole thing. While everybody was acting with their current wrestling gimmicks, Crowley did this great job portraying this wildly eccentric and sinister carnie type of character like some fusion of Willy Wonka mixed with P. T. Barnum. The dialogue did have some fun little zingers like how the wrestlers take a break from fighting while mentioning what they did over lockdown for a couple of minutes before getting kicked out of the pub by Cassius of all people. Chuck Mambo certainly nails the happy-go-lucky “gnarliest wrestler on the planet” persona and his pogo antics get pretty insane as he fights on that thing. The music production ranged from hard rock to ironic piano ballads during the fight scenes to hilarious effects. I also have to give major props for some positive ethnic representation with the choices of Big T Justice, Warren Banks, Kanji, Cassius, Dan Moloney and Clementine. Okay, I’m a bit biased with Justice and Banks since I’ve been a fan of their work for the past couple of years, but it is refreshing seeing Black wrestlers who aren’t portraying traplords, “sellouts”, gangsta rappers, or feminized buck broken characters. Even the other nonwhite wrestlers don’t have any racist connotations to their gimmicks. You Are Cordially Invited actually passes the Deggans Rule from that standpoint. Whether it was intentional or not, this is something I noticed. I know this isn’t some artsy or serious work, but I have a sense of humor as well which some people forget. This was definitely entertaining to watch.
You Are Cordially Invited does take some major bumps here and there. The first thing that came to mind would be the accessibility of this film/match. Don’t get me wrong, I can still see a random person enjoying this out-of-context as a wacky action short that knows it’s not trying to be serious, but unless they know anything about the BritWres scene, they will have no clue who these people are or the various in-jokes thrown in (the Mad Kurt/Dan Moloney confrontation is a BIG one among others). Some people won’t understand all the characters and what they’re about except for Charles Crowley, Session Moth Martina, and maybe Cara Noir from the short run time. This is clearly a 2020 work since the year is mentioned and even has a warning at the beginning of the movie talking about how it was a safe environment and how no one tested positive for COVID. Good on the safety regulations obviously, but this could end up being a period piece in the future. Speaking of Session Moth Martina or how I talked about representation earlier, let’s be honest about her wrestling persona…she’s a drunken raver girl who is clearly Irish as one can tell by her accent. I know she’s a huge fan favorite in her home country as well as the UK at large, but she does play up an obvious Irish stereotype (saying nothing about what the term “Session Moth” means in Irish slang). This movie gets gory in the last third of the film to Mortal Kombat levels. I can handle blood and even some ultraviolence, but some of the hardcore action gets squicky. Heads explode, people get stabbed, and necks get snapped, but things get crazier than that. While this is an equal opportunity fight with races and genders while being darkly comedic, I did cringe when Crowley takes the heart of one of the Black wrestlers (spoilers minimized) and licks it. I get that it’s an ultraviolent comedy work, but reading “The Delectable Negro” prior to watching this did that scene absolutely no favors. There was even fridge horror with a character turning into beer (it makes sense in context) and another character is unaware of drinking that person-turned-lager before vomiting to death. Some of these scenes can be too much even for someone who can handle R-rated content.
This was a fun example of cinematic pro wrestling. The cinematography could rival that of big-budget works and stands on it’s own as an action/comedy piece. Seeing all these indie wrestlers across the UK and Ireland was a treat, but someone not familiar with the scene could be lost watching it. The acting and fight scenes were well done. However, some of the morbid comedy got too much for me. I could see BritWres fans as well those into cinematic matches (Matt Hardy’s work comes to mind) being really into this. You Are Cordially Invited was a nice sendoff to 2020 and here’s hoping that things can be safe for the people to have matches and shows again.
Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-2 points if you’re a huge BritWres fan.
-Add 1 point if you like zany action comedy works.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer serious action works.
-Subtract 2-4 points if you don’t like pro wrestling.
-Impressive visual production
-Hilarious fight scenes
-Beats the Deggans Rule
-BritWres references, wrestlers and in-jokes can fly over people’s heads if they don’t know the scene
-Obvious 2020 timestamping
-Some of the gory scenes get overboard and at some points have more disturbing implications than planned
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Advisory: You Are Cordially Invited is not for kids! The violence gets very bloody and there’s a huge body count as everyone kills each other in insane ways. People have parts of their body explode, get stabbed, limbs snapping, choked out, pogo’d on to death, three examples of bodies exploding (even though one of them explodes into confetti) and two cases of cannibalism with the aforementioned heart-licking and beer-drinking with the transformed wrestler. There’s alcohol usage mostly involving Session Moth Martina hitting the bottle a ton (she even tells Clementine her tears taste like beer which she tastes). The language gets strong with Gene Munny and Elijah at certain points of the film. Bobbi Tyler is also seen flipping the bird during one of the fight scenes outside. Visage is a wrestler who is clearly a drag queen which could turn off more conservative viewers.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. You Are Cordially Invited is property of Charles Crowley. The poster is from Facebook and is property of Charles Crowley.