Paddy Considine now presents his second feature as writer-director, and it’s a powerful and sincerely intended personal project about a championship boxer who must confront a terrible personal crisis. The performances are strong and committed – it reminded me a little of Johnny Harris’s boxing film Jawbone – and Considine’s instincts as actor and director are towards self-scrutiny without narcissism. Yet the audience’s buttons are not just pushed, they get hammered with uppercuts and there is a mile-wide streak of Hollywood emotion here, together with a lenient and even celebratory tone about boxing itself, which you may not entirely share. Yet this all gives the film force, and the quality of the acting is absolutely plain.
Matty Burton (Considine) is a boxer who is approaching the end of his career, a mature and likable guy who unselfconsciously enjoys the good things that boxing have brought him; and he’s devoted to his beautiful wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker, soon to star in Doctor Who) and their baby daughter. Nonetheless, he is preparing to defend his title one last time – a bit nettled at those saying his last victory was unconvincing, due to the referee over-cautiously stopping the fight.
Challenger - Brash - Andre - Bryte - Anthony
His challenger is the brash and arrogant Andre Bryte (Anthony Welsh), who needles him outrageously at the press conference and weigh-in. These scenes, along with his tense farewell to his wife before the fight in their lovely home, show that Considine has perhaps absorbed something from Jake Gyllenhaal’s boxing film Southpaw. The fight itself is a fierce grudge match but Matty goes the distance, wins the judges’ decision, but has taken terrible blows to the head. He collapses at home, and the real struggle now begins.
The succeeding scenes with Considine and Whittaker are the very best of the film: intimately painful, agonising, moving and scary....
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