Reviewed by: Mike Davies

Stuck in a dead end factory job in Coventry (though it’s never mentioned by name), regarded as a complete loser by his ex (Maxine Peake), and given a kicking by a skinhead thug in front of his two young daughters, Danny (Mel Raido, looking like a skinny hybrid of Phil Daniels and Norman Wisdom) is crippled with insecurity, cowardice, and self-loathing and is heading for a breakdown fast.

Salvation makes an unlikely appearance, however, when Louis (a serenely charismatic Colin Salmon), a disciple of Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War, who runs the local boxing club where Danny's kids have dance lessons, invites him to have a go on the old punchbag.

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Louis also runs the door at the local club, alongside dreadlocked good guy Rob (Shaun Parkes) and peroxide blonde chancer Sparky (Scot Williams), and offers Danny the chance of joining the team.

Attracted by the way they carry themselves, the authority they wield and the respect they're accorded, he's happy to become part of the crew and, as he learns the ropes, both on the door and in the ring, so he begins to regain his self-respect and self-confidence. Perhaps (as he apes Taxi Driver in the mirror) a little too much so.

But, there's more trouble ahead than drunks in pork pie hats and foul-mouthed slappers. This is the Eighties, drugs are making their way into the clubs and, with a baby on the way and looking to make some easy money, Sparky's working an arrangement with camel coated local gangster Hennessy (Ronnie Fox).

So, when an angered Louis calls time on that little arrangement and Rob sticks it to Hennessy, things turn brutally nasty leaving aspiring writer Danny with difficult choices to make.

Extensively filmed around Birmingham and based on former Coventry boxer-turned-bouncer Geoff Thompson's autobiography, Watch My Back (which also fuelled BAFTA nominated short Bouncer in which Fox and Parkes both appeared) for all the copious brutal violence with heads being kicked and bleach swigged, this is essentially a drama about turning your life around with pertinent observations about masculinity and community social responsibility.

Reeking with authentic period atmosphere, a rich ska based soundtrack and featuring unshowy but solid performances, it draws you in to the lives and friendships on screen, sustaining an edge of menace but also finding room for humour. Technically, it can be a little on the rough side and some of the dialogue could have done with another pass. Equally an episode at the club involving two of Danny’s workmates (and featuring unreconisable Neil Morrissey) is more than surplus to requirements and, at the end of the day, its moral about retribution and violence is all rather muddy.

However, while the hyped up publicity campaign’s Trainspotting comparisons are overstating things this is a respectable and perfectly (if uncomfrtably) watachable period British crime thriller without a hint of a Mockney accent. It’s also probably the first product placement for Lemsip!

Reviewed on: 17 Apr 2009
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A lonely factory worker drifts into the underworld after taking a job as a bouncer.
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Director: Neil Thompson

Writer: Geoff Thompson

Starring: Mel Raido, Shaun Parkes, Scot Williams, Maxine Peake, Samuel Anderson, James Cartwright, Charlie Clark, Dominic Coleman, Hayley Evetts, Paddy Fletcher, Ronnie Fox

Year: 2008

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Raindance 2008

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