Friday 27 July 2012

"The Man Inside" (Metro 27/07/12)

The Man Inside (15) 95 mins ***

A double meaning lurks in the title of Dan Turner’s confident urban thriller, which attempts to update the old-school boxing melodrama with torn-from-the-headlines guns-and-gangstas business. Its protagonist Clayton (UK grime sensation Ashley “Bashy” Thomas, brooding nicely) is a talented young pugilist working out of tough trainer Peter Mullan’s South London gym. Training is interrupted when Clayton learns his younger brother is running with a local gang – and again when their abusive jailbird father (David Harewood), himself a former boxer, reaches out from behind bars. Will our boy fulfil his potential, and become his own man, or is he doomed to follow in the footsteps of the other man inside?

Turner comes out fighting: his script takes wild swings at Big Issues – the gang mentality, domestic violence, abortion – connecting with them often glancingly. If Clayton’s battles are carefully handled, erratic plotting and casting prevails elsewhere. A romantic subplot suffers from the unlikely choice of doe-eyed ex-EastEnders lovely and British Liv Tyler™ Michelle Ryan as Mullan’s Gothy daughter; her drug addiction comes from nowhere, and leads to a less-than-convincing cold turkey sequence. Yet between them, Thomas, Mullan and Harewood display presence forceful enough to overcome the scrappier material: in choosing hope over despondency, Turner’s film rallies in its final scenes to land, if not a knockout blow, then a promising victory on points.

The Man Inside is in cinemas nationwide.

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