|Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions|
|The KO Picture Show|
|Presents. . .|
|TwentyFour Seven (1997)|
|"Justin Timberlake brings 'SexyBack'... Bob Hoskins brings 'HairyBack'.
And 'HairyShoulders'. And a beard that commences just below the eyeballs."
|I, like a number of people my age, was introduced to the acting talents of Bob Hoskins through the big budget magic of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". He, along with Joanna Cassidy's smoldering figure, were the stars of this film for me. Amongst all the hysterics and a disturbing amount of animated bosom jiggling for what was essentially a children's movie, Hoskins was the only aspect that truly made me laugh. I've since searched out more of his work and have rarely been disappointed. Besides sharing Bob's hirsute affliction (I too have been to the beach with friends and upon removing my shirt have heard, "Hey Rob, why don't you take your sweater off! It's hot as hell out here!"), I find him witty and self-deprecating in interviews, which is a sure way to get me to like you. I know using a famous person's public persona is a dangerous way to judge someone, but I can't help myself. In my book, Hoskins is aces! So I sat down to watch a little seen film called "TwentyFour Seven" with high hopes.
Hoskins plays a man named Darcy who seems to have a limitless amount of good will. He remembers his youth fondly, particularly the old boxing club that was started up way back when to keep the local hoodlums from fighting each other on the streets, redirecting their aggressions in the ring with gloves on. He sees that little has changed in his old working class neighborhood, with the teenagers warring on the corner with minimal direction in their lives. So he decides he's going to start up the old gym again, and by sheer force of will, he manages to convince the young ruffians in town to join him.
After this simple set-up, we then get to know the group of about ten juvenile delinquents through short but effective scenes. To a man they're a misguided but funny lot, and to a man they all come from some shade of a dysfunctional home. Some of the parents are painted as merely delusional or a trifle eccentric (one father is a soccer fanatic, while another is an absentee dad/gangster who blindly funds Darcy's boxing club aspirations just to get his kid out of his hair for a while), while others are downright abusive, both physically and mentally. It's a stark contrast to the mainly happy scenes with Darcy and the young men. I think this was the intent of the filmmakers (director Shane Meadows also co-wrote the movie with Paul Fraser), and while they succeeded to a certain point, I feel they could have done better to let some of the characterizations and scenes linger a bit more. The editing is done with a staccato pace, and it feels a bit spotty at times. The effect is similar to watching a flip book, but rather than having one long scene of movement, there's a flicker between two scenes; one happy, one sad. Both are distinct in their tenor, but neither is there long enough to have any lasting effect. So my reaction to the short scenes presented was rarely more than a smile or a short pang of sadness, when, in truth, they could have gotten the roars and tears that they deserved had the scene been allowed to 'breathe' a little bit more.
While most of the cast was both pleasing and naturalistic, the real heavy lifting was done ably by Hoskins. He exudes a sweetness in this role that has you both rooting for him, while your heart breaks a little bit each time he stumbles. He is convincing as a man who could get a group of, at least, semi-hardened hoodlums to come to his side. But where he really shines is in his personal moments. He plays his fumbling attempts to woo a much younger liquor store clerk with heartbreaking realism. And the scene where he takes his elderly aunt to a weekly dancing class is the very definition of joy on screen. While the story is played out in a gritty black and white (which any film reviewer worth his salt should have noted much earlier in the review.. I'm, apparently, unsalted.. I apologize...), you'll swear you'd seen the rosy cheeks and flowery print of the elderly aunt's dress while she cavorts uninhibited with her cherubic, balding nephew. It's the picture perfect mood set by these scenes that make the last third so jarring.
******SPOILERS AHEAD! TURN BACK, ALL YE WHO DON'T LIKE SPOILERS!******
The framing story for Darcy's fight to resurrect the boxing club is a flash to the present (circa 1997, when, apparently, nose rings were all the rage for young English men) where one of his most abused delinquents finds Darcy living as an unbathed (and desperately in need of a shave) homeless man. He brings Darcy back to his apartment and while Darcy sleeps, the young man flips through a diary that he found on his mentor and he begins to reminisce. Our story plays out in a flashback from there, and while I won't give away the ending, I have to say that the destination definitely isn't the expected summation of the roads traveled. And what I mean by that horrifically muddled metaphor is that the filmmakers played it a little too fast and loose with our emotions to give us an ending this out of leftfield. The flip book emotions mentioned above coupled with the unmitigated joy that is Bob Hoskins' Darcy is not in line with what becomes both an unsettling yet flippant ending. To use another slightly less muddled simile, it's like having someone rear back like their gonna punch you in the face, only to stop short and make you flinch. Then, when you've relaxed with the knowledge that you're not going to get punched, they flick you on the nose. It's not as painful as the punch would have been, but equally annoying.
Wow... did I say that was going to be slightly less muddled? Yeesh...
I'm gonna stop now.....
|The Fightin'! -|
|1 - 2 - 3 -
|The boxing action was amateurish, at best. While the kids looked believably unskilled during the training, their turns in the ring during the scrimmage finale was a wholly unchoreographed affair. Staged punches were thrown out, replaced with pawing, half-thrown jabs that definitely didn't add up to the punishment they were trying to depict. But the kids did manage to keep it scrappy enough to suspend belief between the supposed knockout blows.
And I have to say that the setting for the final match between Darcy's boys and the Staffordshire team was picture perfect. The folding chairs, the pre-match cookout, the pints, and the cheers for the hometown fellas definitely had me pining for a local fight card to come by my way. There's just something about the more intimate setting of a fight in an actual gym or a small ballroom rather than an arena or concert hall. The film was successful in portraying the fun and excitement of that kind of event.
In the end, I really don't know how I feel about this movie. The performances were earnest and touching, but far too fleeting in their impact. I can't blame that on the cast, especially the fantastic Bob Hoskins. The filmmakers were skilled in their characterizations, but not in the execution (see 'Flip Book' simile above). And while they were successful in getting me emotionally invested in the film, they definitely played it kind of quick and dirty in the end to no effect (see the 'Roads Traveled' metaphor and 'Flick Instead of a Punch' simile above). So in the end, it ended up being a slightly above average boxing movie, with the potential to have been so much more.
And for the record, from now on I'll try to leave the homespun metaphors and similes up to the pros like Dan Rather and Ross Perot.
|Overall Rating -|
|1 - 2 - 3 -
|Starring: Bob Hoskins|
|"Reviewing the best (and worst) in Pugilistic Pictures!"|