Glass Jaw


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Glass Jaw
"The best part of the film is the actual boxing."

A disgraced boxer. A grizzled trainer. An unexpected second chance - for victory, and for some kind of redemption. Not a year goes by that I don't see at least three films with this basic plotline. There's even a training montage. So does Glass Jaw have anything with which to distinguish itself?

Its hero, Travis (Lee Kholafai) is younger than the average comeback kid. At the start of the film he's a hot prospect, a young man who has just won his first light heavy weight championship, has an elegant home and a girlfriend who loves him and pretty much everything he ever wanted in life. But when a night of partying goes awry and a young woman ends up dead, his guilt and his sympathy for her father are so strong that he ends up taking the rap. We follow him through a stint in jail during which he hits rock bottom. But Travis has seen men reduced like this before (Jon Gries plays his gambling addict father in a prologue about his childhood that is by far the strongest part of the film), and having done his penance, he becomes determined to win it all back.

Copy picture

The best part of the film is the actual boxing. Nothing here is simulated. Kholafai has mastered the footwork sufficiently well to look the part, and takes the punches for real, which pays off onscreen (though it must have been quite a headache for the continuity team). Unfortunately the film tries to conjure up an energy it otherwise lacks through fast cutting, which means that we don't really get to appreciate Kholafai's physical work in full, and he doesn't have a whole lot going on as an actor besides it.

Most of the actors here have done capable work in other films but struggle with a shallow script and direction that is pedestrian when it comes to anything not moving at speed. In this situation, the general glossiness of the film works against it. Youthful faces shot in bright, omnidirectional light fail to render much expression beyond the cartoonish - grimaces signal pain and mouths widen into O's of shock. An overblown soundtrack strives to layer on emotion that we're just not seeing and the result is something that too often feels more like a telenovela than the gritty drama it wants to be.

If you're drawn to films like this because you're a boxing fan, you may well find something to enjoy, though there isn't as much of the sport in it as one might hope for. The drama, however, has about as much depth as the little anecdotes commentators like to deliver between rounds, and very little punch.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2018
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Glass Jaw packshot
After a champion boxer loses everything and goes to prison, he becomes determined to win back his life and the one he loves.

Director: Jeff Celentano

Writer: Brandon Espy, Lee Kholafai

Starring: Mark Rolston, Vernon Wells, Jon Gries, Jaime Camil

Year: 2018

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

The Boxer
The Fighter