Johnny Walker, a journeyman pugilist, over the hill and scraping a living in third-rate fights, wins one in a seaside resort and gets mixed up with some other of life's losers.
Homeboy is the film that Mickey Rourke claims he's wanted to make for 10 years. Based on his own original screenplay, it's party autobiographical, and its author was able to put his own limited boxing experience to use by actually stepping into the ring for the various bouts of fisticuffs.
Taking full control in this, his thirteenth film, Rourke has gathered together a cast and crew of cronies in key roles, notably Christopher Walken (whom he first worked with in Heaven's Gate). His since-estranged wife, Debra Feuer, and first-time director Michael Seresin, director of photography on Angel Heart.
Rourke himself plays Johnny Walker from a hick town in Arizona, and we know he's meant to be a cowboy, less from his weathered stetson and scuffed boots than from his ridiculous John Wayne walk. On the night he wins his first scrap in a small seaside resort, he also meets the others whose stories interweave the film. Walken is splendidly devious - and often very funny - as Wesley, a likeable petty crook cum-strip club entertainer who takes Rourke under his wing, while Debra Feuer's Ruby, who runs a broken down carousel and pony ride, rather predictably gets involved with Johnny. In fact, their affair is kept touchingly and refreshingly at arm's length.
Shunning his familiar Brando/Dean posturings, this time round, Rourke is Robert Mitchum. He's so consumed by the part that he hardly seems to act, particularly alongside Walken and Feuer, happily letting them run with the ball. He has little to say, sucks in his cheeks like Jack Palance, and carries scenes with a mixture of sardonic expression and bravado.
The fight scenes pack plenty of hard physical contact, but basically provide the backdrop for a tale of a truckload of losers on the periphery of Boxing world who sometimes get a decent decision in their favour from the referee. Homeboy itself wins on points. Just.
The cast is good and the story is fair. If a tale of a truckload of losers on the periphery of Boxing world in America is what you're after, this is pretty solid stuff.