Eye For Film >> Movies >> Champ (2021) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
14-year-old Jake (Kingston Vernes) lives with his mother and her new boyfriend, but he still goes to visit his dad. There's evident love between the pair. Danny (Drew Powell) is proud of his boy, even if he finds him a little hard to understand - that's normal with teenagers, right? He knows that Jake is finding his own direction yet he still wants to be available to help him figure out what's important in life. The trouble is that - as Jake is beginning to figure out - he's really not a good influence.
In a landscape of empty desert lots and run-down warehouses and sheds, Powell - whom many viewers will recognise from his work in Gotham and The Mentalist - fills up the screen with his personality, exuding the kind of easygoing wit and bravado that one can well imagine having dazzled a girl from the other side of the tracks when he was young. When Jake says that he likes his mum's new boyfriend because he's kind to her, a great gulf of pain briefly opens between them, but Danny deftly steers him away from the brink. With him, everything is alright. Life is good. Why worry about anything else? Though he tries not to be cruel, he doesn't hide his amusement at Jake's career ambitions, and he can't altogether hide his hurt at the boy's attitude to the things he values.
Danny is used to getting his own way. When things don't work out, he blames a world that just doesn't make enough room for people like him. He wants his son to learn how to be a man. There are pep talks and boxing gloves and knowing grins. Jake is left with very little room to assert himself. As they ride along together in the car, it becomes increasingly apparent that he's fending off questions rather than participating eagerly in conversation. Danny is so enthusiastic, so happy at the presence of his boy, that he doesn't notice. It's not the tone but the words, easily overlooked in the tide of talk, that hint at something darker underneath all that cheeriness. And yet when the ending comes, it's still a shock, provoking laughter and horror in equal measure, speaking to the tragedy of a divided America.
Gorgeously shot by Oren Soffer, Ben Tricklebank's Oscar-qualifying short is rich in atmosphere and features an impressively controlled performance from its young star, who lets us see a lot more than he gets the chance to say. In just 14 minutes we get to know these characters well, but the film never pauses to make way for that, maintaining a sense of momentum throughout and never ceasing to entertain.Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2021