You might know Johnny Harris as terrifying rapist Mick in ‘This Is England ’86’, the pimp in ‘London to Brighton’ or as one of the creepy CGI-shrunken dwarfs in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. But you may not be aware that, before he turned to acting, Harris was a boxer, an alcoholic and, for a brief period, homeless. In ‘Jawbone’ he loosely fictionalises his backstory into a bleak and bruising, if humourless, low-budget drama.
Johnny becomes Jimmy McCabe, a former fighter lost to drink and facing the loss of his childhood home. Hitting rock bottom, Jimmy seeks refuge in the boxing club managed by a loveable old-timer (Ray Winstone) and his pensive sidekick (Michael Smiley).
With names like that in the cast, ‘Jawbone’ was never going to be less than watchable. Indeed, at times it’s genuinely gripping: Jimmy’s downward spiral is depicted in stark, unflinching terms, and the climactic fight scene is just relentless. But there’s just a little too much that we’ve seen before: the redemption story borders on predictable, and Winstone could play the kindly mentor role standing on his head.
‘Jawbone’ also suffers from a crushing sense of testosterone-fuelled self-seriousness. Yes, it’s a dark story set in a cruel world, but we don’t need to be reminded every five minutes. Still, this is well worth seeing for Harris’s committed performance, some crisp camerawork and that ferocious final smackdown.