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Twenty Four Seven was Brit Director Shane Meadows' first major film and an instant hit with critics. Whilst it might not have seen the widest cinema release ever, those who did manage to see it recognised it was announcing the arrival of a talented newcomer onto the British film scene.
For his debut, Meadows observed the wise old adage and stuck to what he knew. Twenty Four Seven tells the tale of life in a small, depressed town. Local youths have nothing to do but hang around, lose hope and commit crimes. To give them back their hope and pride and instil a sense of discipline in them, one man - Alan Darcy - sets up a small boxing club.
Twenty Four Seven is laced with the type of easy going comedy that fans of Meadows would soon become familiar with. This humour comes from two sources. The first (and lightest) arises from the banter between a set of young blokes who are fast becoming good friends. This easy-going banter sounds natural and realistic, typical of the daft personal insults and abuse that you might expect from such a group. The second comes from a darker streak of black humour that looks at the hopelessness of the situation in which these lads find themselves.
It might not yet be as polished or as assured as some of the writer/director's later films, but that incredible talent is already on display. Through the use of ordinary situations and ordinary people, Meadows addresses themes that run throughout his work: the hopelessness of people trapped in a lower class environment and the importance of an ideal (however wrong that ideal might be) to instil a sense of self-worth. As is typical of Meadows' films, not much of note actually happens and it's essentially a kitchen sink drama about very ordinary lives. Yet, the sensitive way in which Meadows constructs the tale ensures that you care for all the characters and he wrings a huge amount of emotion from some pretty mundane situations.
Meadows' pacing of the film and use of emotion is brilliantly assured. Twenty Four Seven has a relatively svelte 96 minute run time but Meadows makes good use of this time. He makes sure that he builds his characters sufficiently so that the viewer cares about them, but doesn't stretch things out artificially or add unnecessary complications and sub-plots. Everything in Twenty Four Seven is there for a reason and adds to the film in some small, but significant way. It's a masterclass in lean, no-nonsense film-making, with scarcely a wasted moment.
He also manages to avoid the standard sports movie clichés in favour of a more realistic tale. If Hollywood made this (like they'd ever have the imagination), the boys from the boxing club would no doubt end up being world champions, taking out their bitter rivals in a nail-biting and emotional finale. Meadows is too sharp to fall into such traps. Whilst Twenty Four Seven is undoubtedly an emotional and highly charged film, it never becomes mawkish or over-sentimental. The film's ending is fitting, concluding on a note of hope whilst containing some tragic overtones, making the emotional balance in Twenty Four Seven spot on. The viewer is led through a range of emotions without ever feeling that they are being manipulated.
Twenty Four Seven is all the more remarkable because it contains a highly inexperienced cast (including a very young James Corden). With the exception of Bob Hoskins and Bruce Jones (Les Battersby from Coronation Street), there are few here with many TV or film credits, yet they turn in some remarkably assured performances. Perhaps it's because they are being asked to play versions of themselves (young lads with too much time on their hands); perhaps it's that even way back in 1997 Meadows knew how to coax strong performances from his actors. Whatever the reason, the cast do a fine job creating the sense of camaraderie and showing how their characters "grow" in response to the discipline and support provided by the boxing club.
Credit, too, to Bob Hoskins (whose presence helped ensure the film was made) who turns in a low-key performance as club owner Darcy. It would have been easy for Hoskins to dominate and overawe his less experienced counterparts, but nothing could be further from his mind. Hoskins is very self-effacing and downplays his role, slotting into the ensemble cast without displaying any prima donna tendencies (which would have destroyed the balance of the film).
Bruce Jones, the only other actor with notable experience, is fine as Geoff, the loud-mouthed, obnoxious father of one of the would-be boxers who has a massive chip on his shoulder and a personal grudge against Darcy. Geoff might only be Les Battersby relocated to Nottingham, but that's what the role needs and Jones is perfect for the role.
Of course, Twenty Four Seven is not going to suit everyone. If you like action movies or standard Hollywood sports films, then this is going to appear pointless and slow-paced. It's even filmed entirely in black and white for goodness sake, so some might not even consider it a "real" film. In reality, the black and white footage complements the slightly dour setting and storyline perfectly.
It's also fair to say that Meadows is not yet the finished article. Despite a superb debut, it's clear that the writer/director is still learning his craft. A few scenes run on a little too long, whilst a couple of plot points are slightly too convenient, contrived or telegraphed. However, Meadows gets so much right with Twenty Four Seven that you can easily overlook the odd mis-step.
Twenty Four Seven is a brave and brilliant debut film from a bright film-making talent. It's perhaps most notable because it's the film that announced Meadows to a wider audience, but it deserves to be known simply because it is a great film.
Twenty Four Seven
Director: Shane Meadows
Running time: approx. 96 minutes
(C) Copyright SWSt 2012
There are spoilers in the following review.
Shane Meadows is adept at making a specific sort of film, and no one seems to do it quite like him. Twenty Four Seven, shot entirely in black and white, takes us along for the ride as an ageing and restless Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins) decides to give the local lads' lives some sort of direction, discipline and a sense of achievement by starting a boxing club. A fairly conventional and typically working class angle for a film-maker to take on, the storyline is deceptively simplistic. Darcy is clearly in it for both his boxers and his own sense of worth, and each of the boxers is in it to escape the directionless and frustrating daily grind of their lives.
The understated filming and direction, not to mention to lack of colour, allows us to participate in the penetrating dreariness of working class life, and we get a real taste of the barely present optimism shared by each of the players. The characters are well-written, well-performed and are all likeable in their own ways, even the obnoxious gangster father Ronnie Marsh played perfectly by Frank Harper. Coronation Street fans will recognise one of the other fathers played by Bruce Jones, aka Les Bettersby. His character in Twenty Four Seven is even more wretched.
The life of Alan Darcy, besides investing his time and experience into the teenagers he coaches, revolves around writing letters to his estranged daughter and entertaining delusional romantic ideas about the local shopkeeper who looks as if she could have been at school with his daughter. The truth about their relationship is obvious to us, but not so obvious to Darcy, and we don't know whether to feel pity or to just cringe and look away.
The boxing training culminates in a "show" (boxing slang for an unofficial "friendly" series of bouts with a neighbouring club) which ends in disaster when one of the fathers decides, after having seen one of the other kids receive a humiliating defeat, to pull his son out of the fight. The fighter, Darcy and everyone else tries to reason with him and it ends up escalating into a brawl. Darcy and the belligerent father (Bruce Jones) find themselves alone out the back of the boxing club and after a brief exchange of well-aimed words Darcy batters him to a pulp. This spells the end of Darcy's time with the club, the kids and indeed his life.
Darcy, now a destitute alcoholic, is discovered by one of his preferred students several years later, who takes him into his home. Darcy passes away in bed, and we are treated to a moving scene of the boxer (Tim, played by Danny Nussbaum) calling everyone he knows to inform them of the funeral arrangements. The final scenes of the film are a montage of the people who populated Darcy's previous life attending his funeral.
The film is moving, but leaves you with a sense that despite the mistakes and the tragic end there is still something to be hopeful for. Darcy's boxing club may have lasted just long enough for his students to have developed the skills they needed to build themselves some sort of future, and Darcy's own life story surely provided a lasting example of how easily life can slip through your fingers.
The DVD contains an audio commentary from writer and director Shane Meadows, the short film "Three Tears For Jimmy Prophet" starring long-time collaborator Paddy Considine and the usual trailers and chapter selections which seem to have become DVD standard. The DVD is currently a fiver on Amazon, which barely makes it worth while renting when you could own it for pretty much the same price. And owning it is advisable.
One of the better films of recent years - 24:7 offers the viewer a mixture of gritty reality and humour that you would expect from Ken Loach but then hitches it to something stronger. Buth there is a difference, call it mythologising or transcendental there is something about 24:7 that lifts it beyond the typical kitchen sink drama. Perhpas it is just the performance of Bob Hoskins but there is something special about this film. Well worth seeing also for the sound track this film offers a lot of hope for Shane Meadows in the future.
When they titled this film 24, 7 I think they were talking about how often you could watch it! It really is that good, it's a film that impresses from the off with it's gritty realism and intriguing storyline. If I could give you any advice about this film it would be; please do not be put off by the fact it's in black and white, trust me, it's hardly noticeable and only adds to the authenticity and realism of the film. Superb performances all round by a 'little known' cast (with the exception of Bob Hoskins) This is a superb 'feel-good' film that has you (the audience) wishing a group of 'down and nearly out boys' from Nottingham only the greatest successes in the boxing ring. It is more than just a film about boxing, it is also a film about friendship. I really can do little more to recommend this film other than to say; "Go watch it ! NOW!"
If I was to start by saying that 247 is a social realism film then most of you would think of john Grierson or something like 'Saturday night, Sunday morning', but 24:7 is actually a very modern film starring Bob Hoskins as an ex-boxer who decided to do something for the community by starting a boxing club. This is a very appealing film and intices amazing performances from a number of unkown's. the cinematic techniques and scipt also combine to make this a definate cinematic masterpiece and a must see movie.