JAWBONE [2017]

Directed by: Thomas Napper

Written by: Johnny Harris

Starring:  Johnny Harris, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Michael Smiley

Big thanks to Mark for turning me onto this one. You are a champ mate.

Rather than depicting boxing as the glamorous (though corrupt) sport that we often see on the big screen, Jawbone takes us to a dark place, a place where many fighters come from originally. This is a boxing film unlike most others- this isn’t a rags to riches story, in fact, it is the opposite. Jimmy was a former champion at a young age, but his inner demons surface as film starts. It really hammers home the dark place Jimmy is in- it starts very dark visually as we as see Jimmy slamming home a bottle of spirits.

After stumbling home and passing out on the floor, we see photos of perhaps a family that has left him due to his problems. The next time Jimmy goes out and arrives home, he finds an eviction notice on his door. Desperate to find a place to sleep, he climbs onto to roof of his gym, sneaking inside to find a place to sleep.

Bill, an always excellent Ray Winstone, is the head coach of the gym. After a training session, he bluntly tells Jimmy that if he sees a bottle, or even smells alcohol in his breath, he is out. He also gives him his opinion on unregulated boxing- it is safe to say that he isn’t a fan of it. Winstone plays the character perfectly, he is given great dialogue that really demonstrates how strained the relationship is between the two. He is extremely assertive when talking to Jimmy, while other times he’ll simply ignore him. It is a similar situation with Eddie, another coach played excellently by Michael Smiley. He does a great job of battling Jimmy verbally, yet they remain close friends, such is the atmosphere of a well run martial arts gym.

The team atmosphere of the gym is like a family, and in addition to helping young people, the gym is the only place where people care about Jimmy and want him to improve, despite his behaviour, and more importantly, to stay away from alcohol. Boxing, Karate, whatever the art is, it teaches discipline and other lessons than can be applied to real life. The final act is a little cliched, but it isn’t predictable like most boxing films as the first two acts depict Jimmy as a washed up drunk who has lost his skills. His character progression is particularity well done, and when it is time to fight, we have no idea where his skills are at, not to mention his mental state.

This UK indie is bleak, distressing and often uncomfortable to watch. Whenever Jimmy is holding a bottle of grog, you can’t help but scream in your head NO! Don’t! These scenes are always shot in low light, matching the darkness we are seeing as Jimmy tries his best not to drink. It is not easy to watch as it is dark and gritty as Jimmy battles himself and his addiction. The numerous close facial shots nail his struggle – Johnny Harris is amazing as Jimmy, especially during the close facial shots. His character Jimmy is so well written that you will feel for him as he looks at the bottle, battling those awful cravings that can tale control of one’s life. He attends an AA meeting but can’t bring himself to introduce himself when asked if there are any people there for the first time.

Probably due to alcohol, Jimmy needs money. Badly. Despite Bill’s stern warning that he does not approve of unregulated boxing, Jimmy finds a fight against an unbeaten fighter who every one expects to dominate Jimmy and hurt him badly.

Jimmy climbs into the gym to sleep for yet another night, and he finds that Bill is there and they eventually sit down for a cuppa tea. Bill tells Jimmy that he knows that he has been sleeping in the gym, and he also knows that he has an unregulated fight coming soon. The conversation turns to darker territory and Bill eventually leaves, leaving Jimmy to ponder and think about everything that has just been said.

As Mark so adequately put it, this is not a film where Jimmy will a be champion. He was when he was younger, but the alcohol and obvious mental health issues changed him and everyone in the gym knows it. There is no major showdown for a championship. He is fighting in the underground world of boxing, in fights that aren’t regulated; such is his desperation for money. But is it to buy alcohol, or to use it wisely? The final act is thoroughly entertaining with some unique camerawork to demonstrate the disorientation one feels when being punched in the head over and over. The final scene is quite powerful as we learn where Jimmy wants to go next with his life.


Jawbone is an excellent film, especially for boxing fans, as it turns the usual formula used for most boxing movies on their head. Jimmy’s battle with alcohol is a perfect story-line to run parallel to his struggle to get back into the form he used to possess. This isn’t a pleasant film, but it is certainly powerful, and one of the best boxing films in existence. Jimmy’s struggle with alcohol is extremely confronting, and unlike films like Trainspotting, there isn’t a pinch of humour to be found. Every time he is in a place that serves alcohol we wonder, and worry, if he is going to drink again. This is a very bleak film that that will stick with you due to the powerful story. It’s a pity that so few people will see it.

One short of a sixer, but very, very close to a full six-pack


15 Comments on “JAWBONE [2017]

  1. It’s so good to hear you enjoyed this one, mate. We spoken already about it and we seem to see it the same way. It’s bleak and could prove a hard film to recommend but those open to its raw approach will take plenty from it. A great film that deserves more attention. And Johnny Harris is the shit, man. Brilliant performance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johnny Harris was fuckin amazing man. I’d nevere heard of him but will certainly keep an eye out from now on. Its a pity that so many UK indies just never make it here unless its at a festival. I was lucky to catch it, but it hit the internet a few days later hehe. But nothing beats the big screen, I love it. I really duig the camerawork during the fight too. I can see people hating it but it really does represent what its like to be pummeled like that, I know from experience. Getting caught against the ropes/cage is never fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Totally agree on the camerawork and representation of being pummelled. I’ve been in too many scrapes in my time and took quite a few serious beatings into the bargain. It ain’t fun but Jawbone gets it and fully captures the struggle with alcohol as well.

        Johnny Harris is ace. Have you seen This Is England? Brilliant film. But Shane Meadows also brought out three tv mini-series’ that followed it. This is England ’86… then ’88… then ’90. If I remember correctly, Harris is in the second season and he’s creepy as fuck, man. If you haven’t seen them then I highly recommend those as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve never seen or heard of This is England? Shit, man. You’re in for a real treat.

        Yeah, originally it was released as a film. And it was so successful that the director released three mini-series’ (about 4 episodes each). Check out the film first and then catch the TV stuff.

        If you liked Jawbone, you’ll love This is England. Dig into IMDb for some info. It’s marvellous mate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • so its a boxing movie? Hehe, another to add to the watch list. I’ll have to get ANOTHER external HDD soon haha, all my movies are 1080p or remuxs which 12-20 gig

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not a boxing film but it’s done in the same low-key style, realistic style as Jawbone. It’s about skinheads and how those into the Northern soul style also became confused with neo-nazism. It’s absolutely superb mate. I can’t recommend it enough. Shane Meadows is a terrific director. And also check out Dead Man’s Shoes.

        These films are done much like Jawbone and contain some of the very best of lesser known English actors. Stephen Graham in This is England and Paddy Considine in Dead Man’s Shoes. Superb actors! As good as, if not better than, Johnny Harris.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehehe, I found a most appropriate song to describe myself. its a Christmas jingle!

        “We’re dashing through the seas, in a two-mast pirate ship,
        O’er the waves we go, laughing all the way (yo ho ho!),
        The sails and skull-flag wave, making pirates bright,
        What fun it is to sail and sing a pirate song tonight!

        Pirate ships, pirate ships, yo ho all the way.
        Oh, what fun it is to sail in a two-mast pirate ship.
        Pirate ships, pirate ships, yo ho all the way.
        Oh, what fun it is to sail in a two-mast pirate ship!”

        Liked by 1 person

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