London-based boxing drama that combines stellar fighting with personal tragedy
The title of this sinewy boxing drama refers to a passage about Samson, the super-strong biblical figure who was sworn off wine and would lose his strength if he shaved his hair. South Londoner Jimmy McCabe, Jawbone’s protagonist, has a debilitating drink problem and a symbolically close-shaven head, but he also suffers a load of difficulties Samson never knew: he’s facing eviction from his council flat, he’s lost all his family and thanks to his alcoholism he’s no longer welcome at the club that years ago made him a junior boxing champion. “I’m not a beggar!” he yelps at one stranger while asking for money for a phone call. “I’ve left my phone at home.” Jimmy owns neither a home nor a phone.one
It’s no surprise to see Johnny Harris (London To Brighton, This Is England ’86-’90) in the role of Jimmy. The difference with Jawbone is that it’s Harris’s debut as screenwriter – and it’s also the feature debut for director Thomas Q. Napper. But the power of Harris’s wounded underdog story has roped in big names such as Ray Winstone, who plays Jimmy’s gruff mentor Bill, and Ian McShane, whose character, slimy Joe, offers Jimmy a few grand if he agrees to face an unbeaten young talent in an unlicensed boxing match. From here on out, it’s Jimmy’s ill-advised David-vs-Goliath punt that becomes
the film’s primary focus.
Unravelling Jimmy’s story slowly, Jawbone begins with a series of beautiful but painful scenes, including a drunken stupor that’s genuinely taxing to watch and a wonderful tracking shot that pits Jimmy’s doomed estate against some glossy high-rises in the near distance. These quiet moments in the film’s first half help build a detailed portrait of the character and his quest for redemption. Thanks to the length of Jawbone’s balletic boxing sequence, Jimmy’s issues begin to feel slightly token – but before it’s all over, Harris’s deft script slams them back into focus and the effect is like a punch to the face.
Director : Thomas Q. Napper