Caine plays the East End boxing promoter of the title whose family finances depend, precariously, on his gibbering wreck of a son defeating the relaxed-looking champ of his American counterpart Frank Spedding (Landau). No chance. It's all over hours before the fight, and when the knockout's followed by a shooting, Shiner is frantic, determined to root out the people who got to his boy. Irvin's thriller ambles along for 30 minutes following preparations for the event. Then the mood shifts, the banter between Shiner and his entourage turning tense as his best ever day goes rapidly wrong. If the diffuse plotting initially feels scrappy, it gels after the fight. It's unfair to bracket this within the recent British gangster cycle, as the lowlifes and violence are endemic to the boxing world Shiner inhabits. What's at stake here is a deluded Cockney small fry, living on borrowed time and cheap glitz, whose relationships have gone sour. It makes sense, too, that there's nothing flash in the film's technique. The back to basics approach is refreshing: a great story, classy ensemble, and a director confident enough to take his time.
Cast and crew