Untold: Deal with the Devil, the second installment in Netflix’s docuseries, continues to impress by building on its strengths: candid interviews, shifting perspectives, and comprehensive retellings.
Netflix’s Untold: Deal with the Devil was released on August 17, 2021 — Untold is part of a weekly docuseries.
The name Christy Martin most likely doesn’t ring any bells for the average American. She doesn’t hold the same esteem as Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, or Manny Pacquiao, even if she left just as large of a mark. Directed by Laura Brownson, the second installment of Netflix’s Untold, aptly titled Deal with the Devil, focuses on Martin’s rise and fall within the world of boxing.
Her story, one of attempted murder and world championships, has never received the same recognition as other boxing greats, though Martin helped put women’s boxing on the map. Chronicling her life from childhood through high school and then with her relationship to her trainer and coach, Jim Martin, Untold: Deal with the Devil sees Martin become the most successful female boxer in U.S. history. It’s a tale of intrigue and terror, especially as Jim’s possessive and violent actions boil under the surface until he attempts to kill the boxing champ by stabbing and shooting her. She survived, though, and he’s in prison, and in the current moment, all is okay.
And Martin rightfully gets the majority of the spotlight within the documentary, sharing her story with all of its bumps, pain, and triumph. A boxer with a 49-7-3 record who was once addicted to cocaine, Martin’s survival and success transform from impressive to shocking, making the film a showcase for her perseverance. She’s resilient beyond compare, becoming both famous and marketable after winning an undercard of Mike Tyson in his prime. Tyson, along with several other boxers both in the men’s and women’s sport, makes an appearance in the film, praising Martin for her power, her skill, and her importance.
Like the first installment in the series, this documentary allows creators Chapman and Maclain Way to dive into an event (or series of events) in sports history, constructing a new perspective. In this case, it’s the point-of-view of Martin herself, a champion with a history of homophobic remarks and a fighter that struggled to remain victorious towards the end of her career. She takes back the narrative, though, acknowledging her faults and pushing forward in her ability to make change for future generations of female boxers, now living happily married to one of her former rivals, Lisa Holewyne, proudly a part of the LGBTQ community.
Unlike Malice at the Palace, the series’ second episode places the onus on the viewer to examine these events for the first time, some of which will know little about the world of women’s boxing. It makes Martin’s story all the more entertaining, fascinating, and essential, though, showing an athlete who clawed their way to the top of their respective sport, overcoming abuse and even attempted murder. Nicknamed “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Martin radiates a sense of inspiration, a decade removed from her then-husband’s arrest and 12 years since she’s won a boxing match.
The episode struggles to explore themes of sexuality, domestic abuse, and gender inequality with depth, but that seems to be a case of time, not intent. Instead, Brownson’s concerned with this remarkable, albeit distressing story, one brimming with intensity.
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