John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is the loose inspiration for this down-and-dirty British drama. Broken and unhappy Danny (Stephen Graham) is friend, flatmate and sort-of carer to gentle giant Joseph (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who has a mental age of seven. When Danny’s drug debts spiral out of control, he reluctantly hires out Joseph as a bare-knuckle boxer.
The fights take a back seat to the character drama as Danny struggles with addiction and guilt, while Joseph attempts a relationship with Isabel (Maxine Peake), a woman with learning difficulties. It’s a compelling set-up with strong performances from all, including Emma Stansfield as prostitute Lisa – even if her interest in Danny is as unlikely as the meeting of Joseph and Isabel. The female characters are certainly sketchier than the male ones, with Graham’s tortured soul at centre stage. This might be uneven, but it’s well filmed, with a clutch of affecting scenes – a more thoughtful affair than your average Brit fight flick.