And in the blue corner. Golden Boy (Marsden) is encouraged to win the big fight.
dir John Irvin|
scr Scott Cherry
with Michael Caine, Martin Landau, Frank Harper, Andy Serkis, Frances Barber, Clare Rushbrook, Gary Lewis, Matthew Marsden, Kenneth Cranham, Danny Webb, Peter Wright, Josephine Butler
release UK 14.Sep.01
The latest in a seemingly endless string of British crime dramas, this is actually two films in one with a humourous, insightful build-up and a tense, gruesome pay-off. It's 24 hours in the life of Billy Simpson (Caine) a boxing promoter who used to be a fighter himself--nicknamed Shiner--before being disgraced for some reason. Now he's having the day of his life leading up to an important title bout between his only son (Marsden) and the American champ promoted by his arch-rival (Landau). But after the big fight itself, Simpson is sent into a private odyssey of paranoia, suspicion and horror, both clinging to and suspecting his bodyguards (Harper and Serkis) and his daughters (Barber and Rushbrook).
The film's first hour is so tightly constructed that we're drawn in completely. Everything fits together wonderfully, setting up the interrelationships and building sense of excitement and anticipation--so much so that we know things can hardly help going horribly wrong. Caine is very good here, despite the broad Sarf London accent, as we sense his inner sense of vindication and his desire to finally make sense of his thuggish life. Irvin's direction is kinetic and edgy, taking us deep inside this rough and jumbled world, while Cherry's script brings out each character's personality with subtle touches that are drawn out by the fine cast. Then the film shifts gears into a brutal crime thriller, getting increasingly and almost unbearably grisly and sacrificing everything we liked about the first half. Caine's performance loses its depth as his face is locked in an agonising twitch, and the plot itself takes a few too many unbelievable turns on its way to a weak explanation of whodunit and why. After all the carnage, we feel like we've been dragged through the sewers, which is no mean feat. So give credit to the filmmakers for that. But without any real point, do we need to go there?
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