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Friday, 4 February 2011

Risen - Film Review

The remarkable story of Welsh boxing legend, Howard Winston is served up in this award winning movie from Burn Hand Films. The story follows Howard from the time he lost three fingers in an industrial accident to him being crowned Featherweight champion of the world after beating Mitsunori Seki in the 1968 fight at the Royal Albert Hall. It truly is a life affirming story of grit and determination as the man who couldn't even make a fist with his right hand went onto rule the boxing world.

The part of Howard Winstone is taken by Stuart Brannan who also co-wrote the screenplay with director, Neil Jones and between them they have produced a grim, gritty but ultimately joyous film that fails to fall into the sentimental trap which is always a danger with sporting based movies. The film pulls no punches in telling it as it was and the grim surroundings of 1960's industrial Wales are brought to vivid life. There are some great character sketches and being a Welshman myself and a Valley boy too, it was pleasing to see characters that rang true on the screen. Boyd Clack, as Howard Winstone Snr gave a great turn as a man suffering from black lung disease, the curse of the coal miner, whose only desire is to help his son overcome all odds in his quest for greatness.

"A Valley's boy. The champion of the world. It's tremendous."

Howard Winstone is portrayed honestly, warts and all, and we see that his highly focused determination is both the making of him as well as the ruin of his marriage. Grainne Joughin plays Mrs Winstone and the actress has some powerful material to get her teeth into. She starts out positively joyous, almost girlish but hardens as her marriage becomes a soulless shell.

"What about what I want?", she pleads to her mother-in-law only to receive a stony look and words spat back with venom.

Though the bottom line is that  this is a boxing movie and it is in the fight scenes that it will ultimately be judged - Neil Jones obviously recognised the fact and he presents Winstone's various fights in several styles -from painfully slow to blurringly fast. The second fight against Vicente Saldivar is particularly effective - played out in grinding slow motion and set to Moonlight Sonata, it becomes a hypnotic ballet as the camera pulls back time after time to the rhythm of the boxer's feet. This is then contrasted by the third and final fight against the Mexican champion flashing across the screen with the speed of strobe lighting.

More Raging Bull than Rocky Balboa, Risen is a gritty story, the mood often as black as the coal fields but it is also a testament to the determination and sheer guts of one man who rises about adversity and handicap to punch his way to the top.

Following a triumphant journey around the festival circuit, Risen will begin a cinema release this April. It will be available on Region 2 DVD this May with other regions to follow shortly. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon now. And is destined for a knockout success in the home DVD market.

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