Director: Daniel Graham
Cast: Matt Hookings, Ray Winstone, Marton Csokas, Jodhi May, Russell Crowe
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Nudity and Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 11 August 2022
Synopsis: Based on the true story about the birth of boxing and starring Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, Matt Hookings and Ray Winstone, Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher explores the life of Jem Belcher who became the youngest ever world champion at the age of nineteen, and transformed boxing from primitive pugilism into the modern sport.
“When your grave’s filled and your flesh rots away, all you have is your name.” – Jack Slack (Russell Crowe)
Just when you thought that the era of sports stories cleverly fashioned into big-screen adaptations is over, bam! Prizefighter presents the remarkable real-life tale of Jem Belcher with a sanguinary launch of the 107-minute film with the ‘Forgotten Fight of the Century’ as its opening scene.
Embodied by Welsh actor, Matt Hookings in the titular role, Prizefighter: The Story of Jem Belcher tells us a story of the youngest-ever world champion (a record that stands to this day), drowning in the abyss of his newfound glory. Given that society in London was an absolute different world than the one young Belcher was raised in, success soon takes a dark turn and shepherds the hardy boxing star to his downfall.
Set in early 19th century, England, the story of Jem Belcher retells the events of bare-knuckle fighting that paved way for modern glove-boxing that is hailed as a popular sport till to date. With a plot that unhurriedly breezes through the stark contrast of cosy Bristol and charming London, the untold story of the natural fighter has brilliant cast members that elevate the film to a whole new level.
Although 22 years have buzzed by since Gladiator, it may take some time for one to warm up to Russell Crowe’s unkempt persona in the film. Crowe easily fits into the role of Belcher’s grandpa, a famed bare-knuckled fighter and a slovenly father-figure whom Mary (Jodhi May) detests due to his wayward lifestyle. Crowe’s screentime seems a little up for debate, since he is ‘gone too soon’ into the film. Award-winning actress, May, plays Belcher’s devout mother who does all that she can to keep her son out of the rings as most mothers would. The Game of Thrones cast member could have been allowed a more pivotal scope in the plot. Ray Winstone who is a three-time London Schoolboy Champion and fought twice for England in real life, does an amazing job grizzling as Belcher’s trainer. The two veteran actors who have played numerous tough-guy roles have lent a touch of classiness to Prizefighter: The Story of Jem Belcher, with their regal screen presence.
You will also spot Lord Celeborn (Marton Csokas) of The Lord of the Rings, playing Lord Rushworth, the ally-turned-foe antagonist in the film. Hookings, who is also the writer and producer of the biological sports drama, aced in bringing emotional nuances to Belcher and did justice to the apathetic character that was struggling to accept life’s curveballs in the prime of his career. A mixed bag of ratings? Maybe. Different strokes for different folks. It may not offer a much anticipated happy ending, but rather a culmination that rides on undying grit and stellar sportsmanship that promises a place in both pugilistic history and our minds.
(A rags-to-riches-and-fame comeback story that is most authentic, unpretentious, and definitely well-deserving of a spot in the history of boxing movies)
Review by Gizelle Mariadas