When I was ten I avoided talky movies (what kid doesn’t?) and gravitated toward films with dynamic action, scope, spectacle. Around my mid teens I began to be interested in edgier, brainier, more complex films of whatever stripe, and my progression went on from there. Like any film maven I’ve admired the great boxing flicks (Raging Bull, The Fighter, Rocky, Champion, Million Dollar Baby) but at no period in my life was I ever into violent, pulpy, super-aggressive films about extreme martial-arts, foot-fist blood-soaked pugilism. Especially when it involved Asian combatants — fists, swords, you name it. And you can double or even triple the revulsion factor when you blend super-aggressive action with prison dramas…forget it.
The only way I’d watch Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire‘s A Prayer Before Dawn (A24, sometime in ’18) would be through the application of brute force. The usual straightjacket viewing in the fifth row with Clockwork Orange-style eyelid clamps.
From Guy Lodge’s Variety review out of Cannes: “Competition is stiff for the title of cinema’s most violently harrowing prison drama, and tougher still for the all-time most pummeling boxing movie. Gutsily, Jean-Stephane Sauvaire’s A Prayer Before Dawn comes out fighting for both. At once exhausting and astonishing, this no-holds-barred adaptation of British junkie-turned-pugilist Billy Moore’s Thai prison memoir is a big, bleeding feat of extreme cinema, given elevating human dimension by rising star Joe Cole’s ferociously physical lead performance.”
I’m not saying that all I want to watch are complex, character-driven “talking” movies, although that would make for an ironic final sentence. War movies and urban shoot-outs are fine, and I still have a soft spot for watching the best Muhammad Ali boxing matches. But when it comes to films about guys punching out other guys and causing them to bleed and bruise and stagger around…later.