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Solid Jawbone ducks boxing cliche

Johnny Harris, who stars as boozy boxer Jimmy McCabe, has written an endearing and believable story

11 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Johnny Harris as boxer Jimmy McCabe in Jawbone, which features a music score composed by Paul Weller

Directed by Thomas Napper
Certificate 15

DON’T be put off this London noir film by the fact it has Ray Winstone as an ageing, salt-of-the-earth boxing coach and manager, nor the attempts at the start to give us some kind of Daniel Blake-style social commentary (which feels fairly cheesy).

On paper it sounds like as much fun as picking up sweaty jockstraps off a changing room floors.

No – Johnny Harris, who has written and leads this drama about a former boxer turned alcoholic who wants to find a way back into the ring, has created a set of characters that work brilliantly. It is a film shot in twilight and has a music score composed by Paul Weller – could it be more of a hip London boxing film? – and regardless of what it says on the tin, it manages not to descend into cliché.

Jimmy McCabe (Harris) is having a tough time of it – his family home is about to be knocked down, he has a nasty booze addiction, and nobody around who cares that this is the case.

He manages to drag himself to the club where, as a youngster, he could have been a contender – until drinking got the better of him.

He seeks a way back, and has to face the challenges of the coaches (Winstone and Michael Smiley, grunting away at each other) disbelieving he has the stamina or the will power to genuinely do it.

He also is skint so has to turn to unlicensed fight organiser Joe (Ian McShane, on brilliantly slimey form), which adds another battle.

This is no hackneyed redemption story, it’s no Rocky-style, knocked-down-to-get-up-again film. Harris is convincing (he was trained by Barry McGuigan to get in shape and he looks the part).

Produced by Kentish Town-based Vertigo Films, Harris previously starred in their extraordinary, nasty, scary and daring film London To Brighton. I’m thrilled to see him work with them again, and produce another great, no-frills piece that is utterly honest, pared down and sits comfortably next to his other work. Above all, its dialogue is very well written, it is well acted, endearing and believable.


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