In Full Bloom (2019)

Directors Adam VillaSenor, Reza Ghassemi and executive producer, flyweight MMA legend, Henry Cejudo, unpack the debris left behind post World War II, as they tell the story of the fight between Masahiro and Clint Sullivan in, and outside the ring.

Set after World War II, amidst political tension engulfing the entire world, the two fighters symbolize the country they fight for as champion boxer, Masahiro, tries to regain their tarnished reputation after WW2, whilst the American, Clint Sullivan tries to establish the USA as a continued, and dominant force.

Parallels can be drawn to “Rocky 4” as they both address similar issues with In Full Bloom’s ‘Japan vs USA’ post WW2 being akin to Rocky’s ‘USA vs Russia’, during the cold war.

Further similarities can be drawn from the training of Rocky and Masahiro as they take to the wintry wilderness to train for their upcoming bouts.

You should find these quotes about the film intriguing: “Malick meets Scorsese” -The Hollywood Reporter; “A soulful reflection on battle” -Film Threat; “Captures the art of fighting” – Mike Tyson.

“In Full Bloom” had its global premiere at the Oldenburg International Film Festival, wherein it won top prize: the German Independence Award; In Full Bloom also won the Grand Jury Award at the 2020 Mammoth Film Festival. “In Full Bloom” is available on DVD from Amazon now!



Yusuke Ogasawara takes on the part of the lead role playing the undefeated Japanese champion, Masahiro looking to defend his own and his country’s honour.

Tyler Wood debuts in his first significant role as Clint Sullivan, the American challenger to the undefeated champ.

Timothy V. Murphy plays Roane, Clint Sullivan’s trainer. Murphy’s most notable roles have come in, “The B*stard Executioner”, “Grace and Frankie”, “True Detective”, and he has appeared in shows such as “Criminal Minds” and “Sons of Anarchy”.

Hiroyuki Watanabe takes on the role of Tetsuro Tokugawa, Masahiro’s trainer. Watanabe is a Japanese actor who has starred in multiple Japanese movies – more than sufficiently equipping him for his role here.

Sean Scott McCracken plays Silas, Clint Sullivan’s untrustworthy manager who’s also starred in “We Take the Low Road” (2019), and “American Woman” (2018).


“In Full Bloom” takes place in Japan after World War II and explores the tension between the fighters and the countries. The undefeated, Japanese champion, Masahiro, takes on the past-his-prime, yet still full-of-heart American fighter, Clint Sullivan.

The political tension sucks the air out of a press conference with the events of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima still viewed and felt as raw memories.

We quickly learn that Silas, Sullivan’s manager has struck a deal with a murderous Japanese organization, ensuring Sullivan will take a loss; however, the proud American, stubborn in his pride, laughs at the idea of quitting even if it means to save his own life.


Yakuza Syndicates

We get our first taste of combat in the opening 10 minutes when Sullivan refuses to take a dive, going against the yakuza syndicate’s wishes. One of the organization’s henchmen tries to attack Sullivan, however, a swift combination stops the thug in his tracks.

Here, Sullivan demonstrates his honour whilst questioning the values of the Japanese gang and their belief in their home fighter.

Masahiro’s Training

Masahiro’s Training

“Rocky 4”, like Masahiro, takes to the wintry wilderness for hardcore training as he searches for and finds the recluse and legend Tetsuro Tokugawa, a former champion widely respected as a tough master who -preferring the chilly, harshness of Japan- helps Masahiro adapt to the mountain solitudes and their icy-cold surroundings.

Like a ‘Mickey’ to a ‘Rocky Balboa’, Tokugawa uses unconventional training methods such as catching fish with his bare hands, hunting blindfolded, and resisting the temptation of a woman.

Tokugawa ties rope between himself and Masahiro and teaches him a boxing lesson as we begin to learn why he holds an almost mythical status in Japan.

Sullivan’s Flashbacks

Sporadically throughout the movie, we see Sullivan’s PTSD from WW2, as he has flashbacks to losing friends and almost being killed himself before fighting off foes to save his life.

These flashbacks explore a topic that many soldiers suffer from – the post-traumatic stress of war – with our modern-day front-line military struggling with such problems.

Fight Night

The fighters’ contrasting stories lead up to the night of the fight, in which the two warriors battle it out in front of the world and the Japanese fans in attendance.

Masahiro gets the upper hand early in the fight, but the grizzly veteran that is Sullivan pulls back in the later rounds.

Masahiro’s Training 2

Both fighters land several clean shots with Sullivan delivering a devastating right to the head, but Masahiro also connects with a brutal right to the body. This causes both fighters to fall, with the film then ending…leaving us to question…did anyone get up and if so, who won?

What we do know is that through motifs and themes addressed throughout the film, both fighters were living symbols of their values and ambassadors of their respective countries in terms of their honour, loyalty, and warrior spirit.

Stylish Cinematography

The crescendo of the movie uses light as an amazing tool to enhance the battle between foes as the it blurs out the crowd, to zero-in on just the two fighters as though no one else is around.

Furthermore, the brilliant use of light play here puts an emphasis on the sweat and bloodshed as each fighter’s trading, impacting blows knock off an abundance of sweat and blood which spatters into the crowd.


A great tale of two fighters inside and outside of the ring, which is amplified by post-war struggles and the tension that bubbles over from the Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima bombings.

The story arc and juxtaposition of the two fighters against each other find a place in you as the viewer, as you develop the cognitive dissonance of liking both fighters yet not wanting either to win…or lose.

The film pulls on the classic themes involved in any good combat film, exemplifying the never-quit attitude of a warrior; with similarities that can be drawn to classics such as the Rocky movies, and especially that of “Rocky 4”.

Overall, directors Adam VillaSenor and Reza Ghassemi effectively encapsulate the political tension between the USA and Japan whilst using the two fighters as representatives of the values of each country.

Ensuring the redeemable qualities of Sullivan and Masahiro shine through, it’s difficult not to develop an admiration for both fighters.


  • These are the first major roles for both lead actors, Tyler Wood and Yusuke Ogasawara.
  • Director Adam VillaSenor credits his father for his path to becoming a director, as he introduced him to different types of cinema; foreign films and anime.
  • The movie, full of political tension throughout, was expertly done as co-director Reza Ghassemi was a political science major going into law, prior to getting into film.
In Full Bloom (2019) - DVD box cover

In Full Bloom (2019) – DVD box cover

Film Rating: 8/10

You can order “In Full Bloom” on DVD from Amazon now!

What are your impressions of this post-war boxing drama? Already seen it? Which other boxing films come to mind having made an indelible mark on you? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation, share this on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!

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Joe Petrozzi

Joe Petrozzi is currently studying Sports and Exercise Science in his final year at Staffordshire University. He is interested in all types of martial arts combat, and has been since a young age after his dad introduced him to MMA. He is specifically engrossed with the psychology of being a fighter and the mind of a combat athlete.

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