British newcomer Shane Meadows earned festival attention in 1996 with the short films
Smalltime and Where's the Money Ronnie!. With TwentyFourSeven, his first full-length
feature (which he co-wrote with Paul Fraser), this director announces himself as a talent
to watch. There are a lot of similarities to Gary Oldman's superb Nil By Mouth: both films
are shot in glorious black and white, both are set in a working-class milieu, both demand a
viewers full attention (especially until one's ear becomes accustomed to the Cockney and/or
Midlands accents), and both feature strong central performances. Under Oldman's direction,
it's Ray Winstone who shines; in Meadows' film it is Bob Hoskins.
Meadows' film begins on a deceptively simple note: a young man out with his dog
runs across a down and out homeless person, whom he recognizes. Bringing the sickly
older man to his home, the younger one begins to read the man's diary and flashes back
to the time when their lives intersected. The homeless man is one Alan Darcy, who tried
to engage the local disaffected youth in participating in a boxing club. Using his natural
persuasiveness, he manages to convince members of rival gangs to come together in his
club. There is an odd assortment of characters (some bordering on cliché): a drug addict,
a hothead, one whose father berates him for doing nothing, etc. Hoskins dominates the film
and makes believable the story. The training sessions begin as disasters, but gradually, the
would-be fighters come to believe in themselves thanks to Hoskins. When he arranges a
match with another club, though, there is a feeling of the inevitability of failure.
Invoking references to several American features, notably Rocky and Raging Bull
(the latter particularly in the staging of the actual matches), Meadows treads the fine line
between comedy and tragedy. At times, the cinematography has a washed-out look
indicating events filtered through memory. The mostly unknown British cast all deliver fine
performances, but it's Hoskins' show. The compact, barrel-chested actor tears into the role
of someone who truly wants to do good—to give the aimless youths of his village a sense
of self-esteem and purpose in life, despite all odds. Meadows also includes scenes of Hoskins
attempting to court a local shopkeeper and ballroom dancing with his elderly aunt to show
the character's sweeter, gentler side which give the role dimension. The actor responded by
delivering one of his best screen performances since his Oscar-nominated turn in Mona Lisa.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.