Madsen vehicle gets knocked out in the first round

Strength and Honor

on December 06, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson

Quintessential badass Michael Madsen tries to show his softer side in this Ireland-set boxing drama as Sean Kelleher, a pugilist who, after he kills his brother-in-law in the ring, loses his wife to a hereditary heart condition. And the hits just keep coming: Already drowning in debt from her hospital stay, Sean then discovers that his son Michael (Luke Whelton) suffers from the same illness, and only an experimental $300,000 surgery in the States can save his life.

Coincidentally, the Puck Fight, a bare-knuckles tournament, is coming up with a 250,000-pound purse, which would be supplemented by 50,000 pounds from the government. The only things preventing Sean from claiming the prize money are the deathbed promise he made to his wife to never fight again, the fact that he’s not an Irish Traveler—the only men allowed to participate in the fight—and Smasher O’Driscoll (Vinnie Jones), the reigning champ who has escaped murder and manslaughter convictions in the deaths of his previous opponents. Sean sells his house, pulls a trailer home into an unfriendly Traveler camp and starts to train.

With a lowered chin, squinted eyes and gravelly voice, Madsen emotes in convulsions, his awkwardly expressed scenes of grief and interactions with his adolescent co-star lingering onscreen uncomfortably too long, as if more time would exhume feeling. It doesn’t. Cliché dialogue, unimaginative camerawork and ham acting by Jones don’t help. As photographed by D.P. Alan Almond, the Irish landscape is picture-postcard pretty, though.

Distributor: Slowhand
Cast: Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Mark Mahon
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for some violence
Running time: 104 min.
Release date: December 7, 2007 LA

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