Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Harris shines in the central role."

The early scenes of Jawbone recall I, Daniel Blake: offices, queues, obscure officialdom. Jimmy (Johnny Harris, who also wrote the script) is out of his depth, but though poverty and class are part of the issue, this isn't about access to benefits. The estate on which Jimmy lives is going to be torn down. He's been offered alternative accommodation but turned it down, refusing to accept that he can't bring the demolition plans to a halt. This is the place where he lived with his mother, seemingly the only place he's ever lived, and he has no skills, either psychological or practical, to help him move.

Thrown into a downward spiral by the course of events, and increasingly taking refuge in the bottle, Jimmy has just one thread of hope remaining to him. As a young man, he learned to box. Returning now to the gym, to the no-nonsense father figure who was prepared to take a chance on him then, he seeks the discipline that training once gave him. He also knows that boxing could help him make some money with which to repair his life - but he's in his forties, and despite being a former champion, he knows that going up against younger talent now means taking a serious beating.

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Harris shines in the central role. He's an actor used to appearing in the background, often as a soldier or a thug - now he gets to show what he's really capable of. He also makes an impressive showing in the boxing ring, wth only the editing able to persuade us he's struggling, as afficianados of the sport will spot the absence of equivalent skill in his opponent. The trouble is that this is a story depicted on screen a hundred times and beyond what Harris brings as an actor, it really has nothing to distinguish it. Appearances by Ray Winstone and Ian McShane deliver pretty much exactly what you'd expect, trading on type rather than building character.

Whilst there's little that's actually wrong with this film besides a general lack of energy, it just doesn't have much to say. It feels like a training project for debut director Thomas Napper, though on the strength of what he has elicited from Harris, it will be interesting to see what he can do with stronger material.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2018
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After hitting rock bottom, former youth boxing champion Jimmy McCabe returns to his childhood boxing club and his old team.

Director: Thomas Q Napper

Writer: Johnny Harris

Starring: Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Michael Smiley

Year: 2017

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2017

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