Setting aside trite gags about “pulling no punches”, Paddy Considine’s sophomore directorial effort is a candid, grim and worthy drama about the physical and mental degradation of a champion boxer, his efforts to reclaim something of his past life and a measured and smart meditation on masculinity.
Considine plays Matty Burton, a middleweight boxing champion who has finally attained a level of prestige and glory as he approaches the twilight of his career. Derided as a nearly man for much of his career, Burton steps into the ring to defend his title one last time against a promising and dangerous young upstart played with menace by Anthony Welsh. The final fight is, in part, an opportunity for Matty to make one-last decent pay cheque before he retires, but more so an opportunity to prove to his doubters, and crucially himself, that he can hang with the best in the business and is worthy of the championship.
Hours after his final fight, Burton suffers a delayed reaction to a massive head injury and collapses into a coma. Upon waking he has become a mental shell of his formal shelf and struggles to keep a grip on his life as a husband, father and local hero to the people of his hometown.
The characters here all feel incredibly real and lived-in, thanks, I think, due to a combination of excellent acting and resourceful, astute writing. There’s not much in the way of frills, but there’s also no excess drivel or frivolity. Immensely believable, the characters all feel like people you already know from your local pub or street. Considine is superb as the broken Burton, whose relationship with his wife, daughter and friends hangs by a thread as he is stripped of his masculinity and identity. Jodie Whittaker is similarly excellent as Emma, his dedicated-yet-beleaguered wife who arguably bears a heavier burden than her husband. It’s also a meatier and more distinctive role than the one you initially fear she might be saddled with: that of an endearingly faithful trophy wife. The forethought that has gone into the creation of the characters and the raw believability with which they are imagined carries the movie through some of the more relentlessly miserable moments.
Chris Banks | [rating=4]
Sports, Drama | UK, 2017 | 15 | 30th March 2018 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Paddy Considine |Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Paul Popplewell