Director: Castille Landon
Writer: Stephanie Sanditz
Based on: Claudia Tan’s novel
Cast: Kiana Madeira, Ross Butler, Matthew Noszka, Nicholas Duvernay, Bree Winslow, Poppy Gilbert, Manu Bennett
Seen on: 10.3.2023
Content Note: Domestic violence/abusive relationship
Sienna (Kiana Madeira) has one passion: boxing. She is an excellent trainer, work that keeps her and her little sister Beth (Bree Winslow) afloat, especially with the support of gym owner Julian (Manu Bennett). Sienna has been intensely training with Jax (Matthew Noszka), a talented boxer with a bit of a bad reputation. In the course of their training, they became a couple – until Sienna caught him inflagranti with none other than Beth. With her entire life falling apart around her, Sienna wants only one thing: revenge on Jax. By chance she finds Kayden (Ross Butler) who should be able to beat Jax with the proper training – training that Sienna can give him.
Perfect Addiction pits two brooding “bad boys” against each other, trying to establish why one is the good kind of bad and the other is just bad. While I’m not much for that particular romance trope, I definitely appreciated what the film is trying to do – and had fun while watching it.
When I saw the trailer for Perfect Addiction, I really didn’t know what to expect from the film. It looked a bit trashy (which is not bad per se), and, as a friend put it, like a dance movie only with boxing – so pretty tropey and predictable. I haven’t read the book this is based on, and the trailer didn’t inspire me to check it out, although that is something I usually do. I was on the fence about watching it, but given that it is a film with a female director and writer, adapted from the novel of a woman of color and featuring a Black protagonist with an Asian love interest, well, I decided to throw my money at it, just to be sure.
I was rather pleasantly surprised to discover that the film doesn’t just play around with abusive relationship dynamics, as bad boy stories so often do, but confronts them head on. Jax is an abuser and instead of a love triangle, we get Sienna’s process of extricating herself from his influence, while at the same time finding a healthier, albeit not problem-free relationship with Kayden. Kayden brings his own baggage and issues, and it’s no easy, carefree courtship but the movie is careful to explore the difference between Kayden’s unwavering support of Sienna, despite everything, and Jax’ manipulations that make her feel small.
The film comes with a bit of a soapy flair around that rather serious core – dramatic escalations, stakes that go beyond just the personal and include possible business failure or even arrest, tragic backstories, and some seriously steamy moments. Maybe ironically, Jax gets most of the sexy times and Kayden can’t quite keep up. But he does get his moments to shine as well.
Madeira has excellent chemistry with Noszka and Butler, the film is nicely paced and makes the most of its small budget. I had a much better time with it than I thought I would have, especially since I had it unironically. So I might check out the novel after all and would recommend not sleeping on the film itself.
Summarizing: well done.