Cunard British Film Festival: Jawbone

Johnny Harris and Michael Smiley in Jawbone

Johnny Harris writes, produces and stars in, this classic tale of a washed up, alcoholic boxer, trying to make some money through a dangerous, unlicensed fight.

Acclaimed actor Johnny Harris, wrote, produced and stars in, Jawbone. Jimmy McCabe, one-time Junior boxing champion, is now in middle-age, homeless and an alcoholic. In a desperate attempt to make some money, he agrees to an unlicensed fight against a much younger boxer. It is a classic tale, and like all films of this genre, paints a portrait of the role boxing plays in the life of many a young, disenfranchised man. Harris is outstanding in the role, and trained hard with ex-world featheweight champion Barry McGuigan to give authenticity to the fight scenes. However, his acting talent shines through in the quieter moments, such as his attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous.

Starring alongside Harris are the great Ray Winstone as boxing gym owner Bill Carney and Michael Smiley in the beautifully under-played role of Eddie, Bill’s 2IC. Ian McShane also puts in an appearance in the small but pivotal role of boxing entrepreneur Joe Padgett.

Harris has avoided over-writing this script, allowing director Thomas Napper and  cinematographer Tat Radcliffe, to tell the story through images. The use of extreme close-ups gave a sense of getting inside the minds and souls of the characters.

With a soundtrack by Paul Weller and a wonderful supporting cast of young boxers, this work has layers which gently unpeel as the story progresses. Clearly this film is about boxing; but on other levels, it is a film about male friendship and about alcoholism. It is also about the way in which success at a very young age, can often be a curse which can adversely affect the rest of your life.

Even if you are not the slightest bit interested in boxing, this is a gripping film. Despite the harsh topic, it is surprisingly gentle and has moments that are truly moving. This is surely a BAFTA nominee for script, direction and acting.

Beautiful film-making.

Jawbone screens Wednesday 8th November as part of the British Film Festival at Palace Nova Cinema.

Check out the official site here.

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