There are so many boxing dramas out at the moment that they’ve lost somewhat of a punch. I mean, do you want a film that has a protagonist struggling with his identity or drug problems that overcomes it merely by punching people out? Then, hey, original idea, why not make it a boxing drama? I can just smell the testosterone seeping from the pecs and drenching the floor. Yawn.
There have only ever been a few movies that have excelled at this: Rocky, Creed, Raging Bull, and, recently, The Pyramid Texts (make sure you watch it, guys.) There’s the bar that unfortunately many boxing movies don’t meet. Including, sadly, Johnny Harris led film Jawbone.
British actor Harris, known for his villainous role as Mick in This Is England, attempts to throw a few lashes into the genre but winds up being a replica of every harrowing sports drama that comes before it. The film sees down and out alcoholic Jimmy McCabe on the verge of losing his home and being kicked out. When he comes across his old boxing training gym thing, he decides to give boxing one last go, but will he be welcomed back to the sport?
While we may have said that this film ticks a lot of “Boxing Drama” issues, it also collates a lot of the British ones too. For one, it’s about time we just stop using that grainy, brown, sludgy grading that is supposed to make hard-hitting English dramas “gritty.” Especially London. Look, I know people have a lot of gripes about the capital city but it’s beautiful and it is being wasted on over-hyped action thrillers and crime romps because they’d rather capture the seedy underbelly of the city. Yes, we get it, under all the tourism it’s a shit-hole at times but, damn, we can show that without this filter of brown dulling things down. This film is the epitome of British independent culture – it even has Ray Winstone , Ian McShane, and Michael Smiley for good luck! All this culminates in a very tedious and boring film.
Fair play to Harris though who commits wholly to the role. He knows exactly how to sell the underdog. Or, well, not exactly the underdog but the once champion dog who sniffed a few too many butts and is broken on the streets, looking for a home. Harris embraces that metaphor. Even if he didn’t know that was the metaphor I used! Maybe he did – he wrote the script after all. In McCabe, Harris elevates his platform as a terrific British performer who has become a staple in our British thrillers. The sunken desperate eyes and quaking hands really, and earnest, portray a man who has spent more times at the bottom
Though Jawbone is not the most original film, and there are loads of movies exactly like this, it could possibly attract some fans. I always say that you should support your independent films and if you are really, ridiculously into boxing dramas, then this featherweight could be a heavyweight contender in your world. If you are sick of it, however, you’re going to be bored just like me.
Maybe we need to step out of the ring for future sporting dramas – they aren’t knocking out like they used to.
Jawbone is out 12th May