OH DEAR, OH DEAR. Spare us another cluttered film concerning the travails of troubled inner-city English youths. Like the recent, justifiably ignored Victim, Dan Turner’s scruffy film undeniably has its heart in the right place. You want to shake it firmly by the hand and then cautiously lead it to a quiet place, far from any unsuspecting filmgoers.
It looks as if, at some point, Turner and his team intended to make a boxing picture. Clayton Murdoch (Ashley Thomas), the damaged protagonist, spends his evening training with a trainer who is gruff and Scottish enough to be played by Peter Mullan.
As we learn through flashbacks, Clayton is the son of a particularly savage and sadistic hoodlum. One reasonably assumes that, worried about a genetic propensity for violence, he will be tutored into focusing such aggression towards the sweet science.
But, for some reason or other, the boxing story barely develops into a subplot. Fight fans will rarely have felt so cheated since they sat through Jim Sheridan’s misleadingly titled The Boxer. What we get instead is a series of hysterically overworked, absurdly melodramatic set-pieces that fail to coalesce into a story.
Poor Michelle Ryan. Playing Mullan’s troubled daughter (really?), the former EastEnders star is persuaded to drone discordantly through an Elvis Costello song while moping about an empty gymnasium. It’s not clear if she’s actually meant to sound quite so dreadful.
That scene, however, seems subtle when set beside the sequence in which Clayton’s religious mum yells angrily at God – represented by a beam of light passing through a church window – while furiously ripping pages from the bible. Suddenly, Ken Russell’s films seem like models of restraint.
It is only fair to note that the talented cast do their best with the shoddy material. But the mangled narrative, tortured dialogue and dearth of local atmosphere (some scenes were purportedly filmed in Co Down) render their efforts utterly worthless.
We would say something about “first-round knockout”, but then it’s not really a boxing picture. So, we won’t.