Titles of boxing movies have had an air of machismo about them so ‘Rocky’ – good title, ‘Raging Bull’ – even better but now we seem to be going into the realm of more medical descriptions with this week’s, ‘Jawbone’, so it can’t be long before we have titles like, ‘Ouch!’ or, ‘I think you’ve just broken my nose!’ But Jawbone has a different angle in that its more about a boxers battle with the bottle as it is about a battle with boxing. Johnny Harris writes as well as stars in the film as Jimmy McCabe a down on his luck boxer, alcoholic and evicted from his late mothers flat his life has hit rock bottom and his facials scars reveal that it’s not just mental battles he’s fought. It’s a largely silent opening to the film before an explosive confrontation in a job centre and he returns to his childhood boxing club where the gym owner William Carney, played by a somewhat low key Ray Winstone, who kicked him out due to Jimmy’s drinking reluctantly takes him back under his wing. Desperate for money Jimmy turns to the shady Ian McShane who, despite getting top billing only appears for one scene, and sets him up for a bare knuckle fight up North against a mercilessly brutal and younger fighter.
Afraid of Carney’s repercussions should he find out but who inevitably finds out anyway yet at the same time lands a bombshell about his own life, he allows the gym trainer Eddie, the always brilliant Michael Smiley, to ready him for the fight possibly for his life
‘Be Lucky’, says McShane. But with his battle with the bottle and a borderline psychotic bare knuckle boxer to fight it seems that he’ll need every bit he can get.
Directed by Thomas Q Napper whose previous films have been as second unit director on the recent distinctly non boxing , ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Pan’ and ‘Into the Woods’ this is his first film as director and is a far cry from the Disney-esque shoots he’s done on those films.
The final boxing bout itself has taken those featured in Scorsese’s ‘Raging Bull’ as a template as he gets his camera inside the ring and up close for every brutal battering that each of the boxers takes urged on by a truly malevolently baying crowd who really do want blood. It comes as no surprise that the authenticity of the fights is indebted to Barry McGuigan whose expertise only adds to the realism.
With a first time soundtrack by Mod God Paul Weller this is as much about fighting inner demons as it is about fighting opponents and this is a great first time feature.
Here’s the trailer…….