The Big Man (1990 Review

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: An unemployed Scots miner is forced into bare-knuckle boxing to make ends meet

Danny Scoular (Neeson) is out of jail, out of work and just about out of time with his disappointed wife (Whalley-Kilmer) in a depressed Scottish community where the unemployed men reminisce about fighting the good fight in the 1983 miners' strike, A large, rather butch sort of bloke, Danny naturally attracts the interest of a local gangster (Bannen), who employs him to fight an illegal, big-stakes bare-knuckle bout in Glasgow. Unsurprisingly, all is not as it seems here, as a series of lurid, initially baffling flashes to a grotesque character lying in a Costa del Crime swimming pool continually suggest. Desperate Dan is, in fact, the unwilling pawn in the middle of a drugs war but plods on anyway with his Rocky-like training while the wife goes home to mum and eats scones.

The lengthy fight itself is the centerpiece, and it's a memorably cinematic punch-up, horrifyingly brutal, gory but involving while Neeson is extremely sympathetic throughout as the hard-pressed, moral man clinging to his pride. Sudden bursts of village esprit de corps that might have been borrowed from How Green Was My Valley do strike one as rather unlikely, but this otherwise tough, grim drama.

Adapted from William Mcllvanney's novel, an honorable — if not entirely likable — effort at presenting a contemporary working class bloke in the manner of traditionally decent, macho but sensitive cinema heroes.