Ralph Breaks the Internet
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
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All Critics (26)
| Top Critics (1)
| Fresh (25)
| Rotten (1)
Johnny Harris loosely fictionalises his backstory into a bleak and bruising, if humourless, low-budget drama.
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.
...there are moments of simple truthfulness.
I love a good boxing film but Jawbone isn't just a good boxing film, it's a fantastic one.
... an extraordinarily human tale of suffering and redemption against the backdrop of London.
This is the small-time, replete with unforgiving glare and hostile punters.
Like Steve McQueen's Shame or Gerard Johnson's Hyena, Jawbone is an intense and close-up depiction of a scarred individual going about his business with, largely, disastrous consequences.
Jawbone may be an example of the catharsis of filmmaking and storytelling, the first time effort at screenwriting for Harris and feature direction for Napper has culminated in a solid piece of filmmaking.
While the basic framework of the Jawbone story hardly feels fresh, the execution from everyone involved makes it easy to overlook some of the more familiar elements. It's a sobering film, in many ways, and a quietly impressive one throughout.
As a writing debut for Harris and a feature-directing debut for Napper, this is extremely promising. As a role for Harris, it's a sign that a great British actor may have just hit his moment.
The familiar boxing movie trajectory doesn't lessen the forceful punch of this underdog story.
Rocky meets I, Daniel Blake may sound like a horrendous pitch, but the bones of just that are in this muscular feature debut from the character actor, and now writer and producer, Johnny Harris.
Let's face it, boxing is a brutal and unforgiving sport. But it's also reflective of class. Rarely, if ever, is it taken from the point of view of the privileged or the upper-classes. It's a sport that offers the working class a chance to break free from their poverty or a chance of absolution from personal demons or afflictions. From Rocky to The Champ or Raging Bull to The Fighter, boxing flicks often provide raw and gritty, blue collar entertainment and Jawbone is no exception.
Plot: Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris) was once a youth boxing champion but now he's a man who's hit rock bottom and lost his way in life. After having recently become homeless and battling a long-term alcohol addiction, Jimmy looks to the only salvation he has left. He ventures back to his childhood boxing club where meets up with gym owner Bill (Ray Winstone) and corner-man Eddie (Michael Smiley). They're reluctant to welcome him back but if he can prove he's off the drink and show dedication then they'll give him a chance. What then becomes of Jimmy is entirely in his own hands.
Jawbone, or The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe, as it's also known is not so much a rags-to-riches tale than a rags-to-stitches one. There's no big prize fight for Jimmy. Instead, all he can hope for is a few grand in pocket that doesn't warrant the extensive risk he takes. This is very much simple human drama of one man's fight with alcoholism and how boxing becomes his focus to find some redemption in his life. He's not going to become an overnight sensation. All he can expect to achieve is a focus in his life and the possibility of clinging on to his sobriety.
At it's centre is the hugely underrated Johnny Harris. This is an actor that has went unnoticed for far too long and anyone familiar with Shane Meadows' This Is England television mini-series will be aware of how effective and powerful a performer he can be. It's an absolute disgrace that Harris hasn't caught the eye of more casting agents and hopefully this is the film that will change that. With this in mind, if you're not getting the opportunities you deserve within the industry then why not make them for yourself? Harris has done just that by emulating what Stallone did with Rocky - he personally wrote the screenplay and gave himself a meaty lead role where he's able to showcase his abilities. His Jimmy McCabe is a tortured soul and despite Harris' tough exterior there's a gentle, empathy behind his eyes. Harris manages to convey a troubled man that's also pure of heart.
There's only one issue with Jawbone and that is that it feels slightly undercooked. Harris has a written a strong three dimensional character and he manages to get us to care and invest in him but with so much attention on this character, it feels that the rest aren't given as much. Both Winstone and McShane are underused and I got the feeling that they only agreed to appear to lend a bit more weight to the project - which ultimately I'm thankful for. It was the slightly rushed denouement that irked me most, however. I wanted to see more of the story and what became of Jimmy but I suppose that only confirmed how invested I was in the character. That said, this is not the type of film that could've had a satisfactory ending. Just like the alcoholism that Jimmy battles, it's a never ending disease that has to be taken one day at a time.
Playing out like a Ken Loach, kitchen-sink drama, this is a grim and unflinching look at poverty and addiction. Boxing comes secondary here but Harris comes second to no-one. He gives a towering central performance that simply can't be overlooked.
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