Review of the boxing drama Glass Jaw
Travis Austin (Lee Kholafai) finally achieves his dream of becoming a world championship boxer, but an unfortunate incident at his after party turns suddenly turns his life upside down. Although he is not responsible Travis is driven by guilt, and in order to protect his friend and sparring partner Joe (Brandon Sklenar) he decides to take full responsibility for the incident which sees him sent to jail.
After serving his time Travis is released, but with everything he worked so hard for now gone, he is forced to start again with nothing. Former friends turn their back including Joe; now a world champion himself he is unwilling to help. Travis has no option but to start from the bottom as he must fight to build himself up again.
Forced to reflect on his life, his family and the events of his past which continue to haunt him, as looks for closure and tries to make things right. When a boxer pulls out late in a title fight against Joe, Travis is given an opportunity to step back into the ring – This may be his last chance to get back his reputation, his belt and everything that has been taken away.
Glass Jaw is a new boxing film from director Jeff Celentano which despite following a familiar story tries to add more in-depth drama to the story, to make it more than just another sports film. For the most part, it succeeds, but like Travis Austin, there are definite highs and lows, but it is worth staying the distance because it pays off in the end.
The film for me is split into three parts, with the weakest part being the rather disjointed beginning, which despite having some great moments tries to cover too much in a short amount of time. The scenes motives and emotions of the scenes left undeveloped as the pace of the story keeps moving the film along.
It is a promising start as we see a backstory with a young Travis (Jack Fisher). We get a glimpse into his past where life lessons may seem tough from his father (Jon Gries), but they only get worse when he is later abandoned and left to be taken into foster care.
Flash forward to the present his life seems to be turned around, in the ring he wins his title fight, and outside the money, friends and a beautiful wife – it looks as though he is top of the world. Unfortunately, this happiness doesn’t last for long when an accidental death at the party turns his life around.
From here the film quickly moves through events without really making it clear why he would throw his life away like he did. Despite not being connected to the death Travis, decides to take full responsibility and in the process loses both his home, money and possessions which he had worked so hard to earn along the way. More to the fact his decision has left his wife on the outside with nothing.
The scenes in the prison seem underdeveloped and the friendships inside are introduced but never really explored. Apart from a few confrontations with the prisoners, for the most part, the events don’t really add too much to the story.
Surprisingly the best part in the prison scenes involve a visit from his absent father who has decided after all these years to finally make contact, which serves to open old wounds which have never really healed. As with many of their conversations, there is a tense atmosphere between the with Travis naturally guarded and fully aware of his father intentions for seeing him. He may not get the answers he wanted from the conversation, but he does get some forewarned advise from his father as he is walking away, “Your friends coming in are not going to be your friends coming out”. Which is a truth we after serving his time he comes out to find.
Jon Gries does a great job as the unapologetic father who seems unable to show any remorse for his actions and the relationship between Travis and his father continues to be explored throughout the film. With Travis seeking closure, it deals with their relationship infrequently throughout the film but manages to remain a pivotal part of the overall story.
In this second part of the film with Travis leaving the prison Glass Jaw really starts to work as a drama, as he finds that everything he worked so hard to get in has now gone. His wife may have waited four years for him to return, but the relationship doesn’t feel quite the same, and as his father foretold the friends that he had going in, now turn the other way. This includes his friend and former sparring partner and friend Joe, who filled the place that Travis left and is now a world champion himself.
Having to start from the bottom Travis finds himself in a familiar environment, a local boxing gym. This time however his role is moping the floors, rather than training in the ring. We are introduced to some familiar faces with the hard-nosed owner and trainer Mark Rolston as Frank Maloney and the more laid back co trainer Steven Williams as Harry.
Once in the gym, it starts to feel like a boxing movie with some familiar themes and with Mark Rolston as Frank Maloney and in a more laid back co trainer Steven Williams as Harry some familiar faces. Mark is brilliant as the owner who continues to give Travis a hard time and reminded me a lot of Burgess Meredith as Mickey in Rocky (1976)m, so despite his cold attitude, you feel that his motives are is in the right place.
Steven takes a more relaxed and playful attitude and is easily one of the most likeable characters bringing a lighthearted humour to the film once again. Despite having supporting roles in the film, but their relationship with Travis seems to bring out the best in Lee’s performance and despite their relatively short time on screen still manage to make a memorable impact.
Even if you are unacquainted with boxing films it is not difficult to see where it is heading. When one of the gym’s fighters has to pull out of a title fight with Joe with only weeks left to the fight, Travis is given the opportunity to take his place in the ring as a late replacement. Moving evermore into the familiar territory, there are only weeks left leading up to the fight with Travis stepping in as an underdog. Cue the training montage as they prepare for the final showdown.
Glass Jaw tries to offer something more than just another Rocky homage, building on the drama throughout out, although despite some nice ideas it doesn’t always manage to deliver as it should. The film works best when dealing with the relationships between Travis and those around him. The difficult reconciliation with his wife, the professional relationship in the gym and more importantly his broken relationship with his father.
The film brings together an experienced cast which also includes a brief cameo from Vernon Wells in the film, however, it is Lee Kholafai who manages to impress in the lead role as Travis, with his character continuing to develop as the film goes on.
Overall it may be a bit of mixed bag which takes a whilst to really find its feet, but once it manages to get itself off the ropes it manages to deliver an entertaining boxing drama. I like to see a good underdog story and this one is worth sticking with up until the final bell.
You can find out more about the film on the official page:
Glass Jaw is produced by Steve Perry (True Romance) and Zeus Zamani (Battlefield America), with executive producers Dan Gatsby, Raj Tandon, Jaison Robinson, Frank Wadi and Tommy Vlahopoulos, and is set for release in Theatres and VOD October 26.
Glass Jaw is the redemption story of Travis Austin, a one-time champion boxer who goes to prison and loses everything. After his release, he experiences the trials and tribulations of redeeming his reputation, his belt, and his true love.