Fighting your inner demons
Featuring a minimalist score and a dull colour palette, Jawbone is a boxing film that lacks passion. Stylistically, its impressively shot but there are times it drags too. With a lack of music to drive the picture forward, its left to the actors to push this film forward. Thankfully, internally conflicted ex-boxer Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris) delivers a heartfelt performance in a title otherwise lacking in conviction.
The story follows rock-bottom Jimmy who’s lack of direction in life after leaving the boxing scene has seen him turn to drink for company. Determined to get back into boxing to make some money, Jawbone follows all the usual story tropes you’d expect from this genre. It never quite feels cliched but it also never quite feels original enough to stand out. The lack of music and its dull colour palette give the film a real gritty feel to it but it also slows down the title at pivotal moments, failing to enhance the heartfelt performances by the actors. Its a shame as I can’t help but feel that with a more lively, prominent music score, Jawbone could have been so much more. Its not necessarily a bad film, it does get a lot right, but its lack of music and high stakes for the end fight ultimately hurt the integrity of the title.
I touched on the style earlier but there’s moments where Jawbone confidently presents a slick boxing title that absolutely nails its aesthetic. Seeing a close up shot of Jimmy looking longingly at the alcohol section of a supermarket, the long one-take shots of Jimmy walking and the brutal fight at the end of the film are among some of the best shots in the film. Jawbone does make a light jab at the start of the film, proclaiming “Here comes Rocky,”, when Jimmy enters the boxing gym and its an interesting quip, especially seeing as Jawbone couldn’t be further from the charismatic title if it tried.
Its a shame then that Jawbone lacks the conviction to really make it a stand out boxing film. Its formulaic story about training up for a big fight has been seen time and time again and unfortunately better elsewhere. Jawbone confidently portrays some well written characters but ultimately lacks the sort of passion needed from a title like this. I found myself indifferent to the outcome of the fight at the end because ultimately, win or lose, the outcome is the same for Jimmy. In Rocky, the larger than life fights are for big titles or pride of a country. In Southpaw, Billy is fighting for his daughter and his future. In Jawbone? Jimmy fights for £2500. Whilst I appreciated the realistic depiction of the sport, I can’t help but feel an extra 0 on the end of that and making the stakes just a little higher would have built some much needed tension in a boxing title lacking some much needed life. Perhaps its an unfair analogy to make, after all Jawbone at its centre is about a man fighting his demons and doing it through boxing, but it doesn’t hide the fact Jawbone lacks passion.
Overall then, Jawbone is a stylistically impressive title with its own demons it just can’t shake. Its characters are well written and acted but the indifferent, blasé reaction to the fighting and lack of music hurt the overall impact the film makes. Its frustrating because this hard-hitting character drama about a man fighting his demons and doing it through the sport of boxing should be reason enough to get behind Jimmy but it lacks passion. There are times the film drags too. Its not perfect, but this underdog title certainly punches above its weight, even if it does end up knocked out by its issues in the end.