Johnny Harris plays Jimmy McCabe, a former youth boxing
champion, now a 40-year-old alcoholic in denial. A year after the death of his
mother, he is evicted from his childhood council estate, presumably so it
can be redeveloped into post offices and libraries. With nowhere to live, he
starts frequenting his old boxing gym, a grotty little shack in south London.
After smoothing over some long-standing tension with his coaches (Ray Winstone
and Michael Smiley), he starts training again. But money is tight, so he tracks
down underground boxing promoter Joe (Ian McShane) and is booked for an
unlicensed fight that could be his last, with only a few weeks to turn around
his sloppy technique.
While the narrative is painfully simple, the story is almost
incidental, with the film having so much to offer around it. The photography is
beautiful, showing a bleak and empty London, the bright lights of the Shard
looming over grey communities as they are hollowed out. Jimmy’s training is
focused and artfully filmed, with all training montages certified 100%
cheese-free. No ‘Eye of the Tiger’ here. A masterfully captured shot of sweat
evaporating from the boxer’s drenched back at dawn is particularly memorable.
The final fight is tense and dizzying, a thrilling payoff.
But Johnny Harris’s nose steals the show, perched on a
face so lumpy and crooked, so expressive, so perfectly suited to the long and
contemplative close-ups that fill the frame throughout the film. This is a film
of faces, from the promoter’s piercing eyes and unsettling smile to the gentle
gaze of the coach watching over ‘his boys’. That relationship between coach and
boxer, master and student, is so lovingly portrayed, so tender and sensitive,
somewhere between fatherhood and brotherhood.
‘You was a lovely boy,’ intones Winstone, unexpectedly
spilling his heart out. It’s something we rarely see portrayed so convincingly.
Some would have us believe that this systematic deconstruction of ‘brotherhood’ is a
global conspiracy of feminisation. Jawbone suggests that it may have more to do
with skyscrapers being built on top of former boxing gyms, although it doesn’t
labour the gentrification point.
Ultimately, this is a film about male relationships, stoic and silent, taciturn but tender, and it all ends in sober tears. A slow-burning, manly drama with plenty of punch.
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
12 May 17 – 12 Jul 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|