Review: Journeyman doesn’t throw many punches

Paddy Considine as Matty Burton in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal

Paddy Considine as Matty Burton in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal - Credit: Archant

Paddy Considine returns to the director's chair for a hard-hitting drama about a boxing champion, whose charmed life suffers a series of knockout blows inside and out of the ring.

Paul Popplewell as Jackie and Paddy Considine as Matty Burton in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal

Paul Popplewell as Jackie and Paddy Considine as Matty Burton in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal - Credit: Archant

Journeyman (15)

****

Boxing is an old man's game, full of punchy lifers who despite the risk of irreparable brain damage, are still chasing that one last payday or can't face a life without the structure and discipline it offers.

Matty Burton (Paddy Considine) is a mild-mannered boxing World Champion living happily with his wife (Jodie Whittaker) and newborn daughter.


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The title was won by default and when you hear he's preparing to defend it in one big payday against a hungry and much younger opponent who threatens it will be a 'life-changing' night you immediate worry – he is too old, too nice and probably too white for this to end well. After the fight, he emerges from a coma to find most of his memory gone and needing to relearn most of the basic motor skills.

Paddy Considine and Jodie Whittaker in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal

Paddy Considine and Jodie Whittaker in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal - Credit: StudioCanal

There isn't a lot to Considine's second film as writer/director. His script is sparse – it doesn't even have the scene where the doctor explains the exact nature of his injuries. The locations are limited – probably around fifty percent of it is set inside Burton's house.

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It doesn't throw many punches, but they all land. It works its way through various boxing movie archetypes. The first act is the dark flipside of Rocky, the good guy underdog whose pluck and determination cause his downfall. After the Million Dollar Baby moment the claustrophobic second act – basically just Considine, Whittaker and their baby in his house trying to come to terms with the full extent of his injuries and how his personality has changed – is Raging Bull intense.

The movies biggest asset is its acting. Whittaker is splendid as the wife trying to hold it all together, to cope with seeing the man she was in love with trapped inside this mumbling wreck. Paul Poppelwell and Tony Pitts as the colleagues who initially abandon him are so natural you can't believe they are acting.

Even though he is not entirely credible as a boxer, Considine may never have been better. As a champion of the ring, he just seems to be Paddy Considine with a big gaudy belt on. But this really pays off in the rest of the film, because he is horribly convincing in the rest of the movie.

Actors always seem to overdo these roles, play the condition, not the man. With Considine, you can see him playing a man, a man trying to reassert himself through the condition. It isn't pleasant and there are two or three moments that are genuinely shocking. The middle third is so harrowing you wonder if you can take much more of this, and after a while, you don't have to.

Paddy Considine as Matty Burton in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal

Paddy Considine as Matty Burton in Journeyman. Photo: StudioCanal - Credit: Archant

The final third of the film is problematic. Most of the intensity the film has built up fritters away and the film kind of drifts away into a conclusion that few in the audience could've seen coming or wanted. It is certainly not the denouement the first hour set us up for. It's punching itself in the face but there is a perverse integrity to it.

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