Heavy stuff, this, from Johnny Harris, the man from London to Brighton and star of one of TV’s all-time toughest moments, with Vicky McLure in This Is England.
This is Johnny’s self-penned personal moment, the story of Jimmy, a down-and-out alcoholic boxer from south London, saved from his own demons by his heavyweight, seen-it-all trainer. It’s full of atmosphere, and you can taste the sweat and tears.
The boxing, choreographed by Barry McGuigan, is great stuff and Winstone, Harris and Michael Smiley are all on their game, as is Ian McShane as the kingpin. It’s quite old-school when you watch it, the type of gritty British, working class film they don’t make much anymore here, not since Nil by Mouth, really, to which it clearly owes a debt. But: don’t we all?
So for that, one must take the gloves off and applaud it. You might wish for some females or some levity to punch through the darkness and the depression, but once you realise this isn’t Rocky, you get right into it, ducking with Jimmy every bob and weave, feeling every blow.
The audience here is like an exhausted corner man, tending to cuts and bruises, wondering if it isn’t time for your emotions to throw in the towel. Jimmy’s not an easy guy to root for but, though the film’s not for the faint-hearted, its real triumph is how your heart goes the extra round for him.