A Middle-aged loner starts a boxing club on the rundown estate to help get trouble making kids off the streets.
Try this one for size. Make a film about boxing and shoot it in black-and-white. Bolster the soundtrack with classical music and then give it a subtext about redemption. What you get is Raging Bull, right? Well, not exactly. First time writer-director Shane Meadows has done just that, but he has created a film so resonant in character and bitter humour that Scorsese won't enter your head. In fact, you'll hardly notice the boxing at all.
The premise floats like a feather. A band of teenagers kill time on their Midland housing estate by drinking cheap lager, smoking bad weed and egging on their rival gang. Enter Darcy, a middle-aged loner (performed with burning intensity by Bob Hoskins) who knocks a fraction of sense into their thick skulls and involves them in a run-down boxing club. Funded by shifty business man Ronnie, Darcy unites both gangs to box against a local amateur team and, hopefully, instils some self respect into their vacant lives.
Of course it all ends on the ropes: parents object to their sons' imminent battering, drug use dampens ambition and love interests remain unrequited. Yet beneath the loneliness and squalor, Meadows has planted a seed of unremitting hope. In fact, moments of clear-cut genius blossom throughout. The Blue Danube Waltz sequence is breathtaking considering it was directed by a self-taught 26-year-old; and Hoskins caressing the fingerprint mark of his never-to-be lover is simply inspired. The naturalistic acting blends perfectly with Ashley Rowe's magnificent black-and-white photography making TwentyFourSeven the most challenging British debut in years. He may buck the trend for slick editing and dazzling set pieces but Meadows gives off a bold message: be a somebody, not a nobody. In other words, everyone over 15 should see this movie.
A bold and memorable debut from Shane Meadows.