Fight drub

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

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.

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