“Jump in when others do, that’s the rule,” declares one of Miguel’s pugnacious companions at the outset of Hulu’s upcoming ribald comedy film, “Miguel Wants to Fight,” scheduled to premiere on August 16. However, Miguel (portrayed by Tyler Dean Flores, known from “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”) has never taken that plunge.
This realization stuns his trio of closest friends—ex-boxer David (Christian Vunipola), scrappy Cass (Imani Lewis), and quick-witted Srini (Suraj Partha)—who adamantly insist that they’ve witnessed Miguel land at least one punch. Later on, when Miguel receives disconcerting news that his family will be relocating hours away from Syracuse, he embarks on a quest to partake in his inaugural fight instead of revealing the truth to his friends. His new neighborhood, coincidentally, is a hotspot of constant fisticuffs for everyone who resides there.
“Surrounding Miguel is a fighting atmosphere, and we even emphasized this through the murals he passes by,” explains director Oz Rodriguez. “But his affinity for fighting is strictly confined to the realm of films.”
Despite adorning his bedroom with posters of action legends like Jackie Chan (he envisions himself as Bruce Lee and engages in Matrix-inspired scenarios in amusing interludes) and frequently tidying up his father’s (Raúl Castillo) boxing gym, Miguel is no natural brawler. Furthermore, he picks fights with all the wrong adversaries.
Seeking counsel, he turns to his imposing neighbor Armando (Sarunas J. Jackson from “Insecure”) and engages in an unexpected conversation with the former boxer, fresh out of prison. While Armando’s advice should serve as a deterrent, Miguel remains steadfast in his misguided pursuit of a worthy opponent, inadvertently compounding conflicts with those he deeply cares about.
“I pondered the notion of adolescent boys grappling with their emotions and aggression, and the maturity required to openly communicate with friends,” reflects Rodriguez. “If Miguel had been emotionally open and confided in his friends about the impending move, there’d be no story.”
Fortunately, Miguel’s comrades rally behind him, to a certain extent. As Rodriguez, the director known for “Saturday Night Live” and “A.P. Bio,” underscores, “This film centers on friendship and its significance, especially during this life stage. For me personally, some of the friendships formed at that age endure to this day.”
While Miguel largely avoids truly detrimental conflicts throughout the narrative, Flores underwent about a month and a half of fight training. Rodriguez reminisces, “Most of my messages [to him] were along the lines of, ‘Stretch your legs—you’ll be doing plenty of kicking!'”