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Hoskins in Center of the Ring in a Bittersweet 'TwentyFourSeven'


Fledgling British firebrand Shane Meadows takes his cues from Alan Clarke's '80s BBC dramas and Ken Loach and 501 Jeans commercials yet strives for the iconography of religious tableaux--which seems incongruous, given that his "TwentyFourSeven" is set in the gritty Midlands of England, in and around a rattrap boxing club.

On the other hand, his centerpiece character is nothing less than a secular saint--Darcy (Bob Hoskins), a man on a mission, which is to get the wayward, drug-saturated youth of his town involved in that boxing club, a place that gave his life structure and purpose as a kid, and which he thinks will keep the various local delinquents out of various troubles.

Darcy's motivations are never really explained. But the fact that we meet him on his deathbed (the story is told in flashback) martyrs him immediately. And it makes his blind zeal more convincing, as he tries to overcome an almost congenital cynicism among the kids and their parents regarding anything advertised as a boon to their lives (Margaret Thatcher's face isn't painted on the punching bags, but it might be).

Open-hearted, barrel-shaped, with more hair on his upper arms than is left on his head, Darcy is willing to do whatever it takes to get the boys into the gym--embarrass himself in a soccer shootout he can't possibly win, or manipulate the milder kids with dreams of beating up the stronger. He's an effective fix-it man, getting the perpetually stoned Fagash (Mat Hand) off a drug charge with an awkwardly impassioned plea to the court, or dividing and conquering his fighters with overtures to their assorted vanities.

And Hoskins, playing a character unlike any he's really done before, is affecting and endearing; he makes the bull-necked Darcy something of a man-child, either in his naivete about what he and the gym can accomplish, or in his attempts to get something started with Jo (Jo Bell), a pretty store-owner who is mostly oblivious to his intentions.

The voiced-over narration that punctuates the drama comes from Darcy's diary, which is read by his star pupil, Tim (Danny Nussbaum), and which, unfortunately, sways from straight-ahead chronology to evangelical inspiration-speak a la Norman Vincent Peale.


While this is ostensibly a story about a group of kids, their portraits are far less well-defined than those of the adults: Darcy, naturally, but also Ronnie (Frank Harper), a local wiseguy who bankrolls the club and is a consistent source of idiomatic humor, and Geoff (Bruce Jones), Tim's father and a viciously abusive (and cowardly) malcontent whose mean streak ruins everyone's day.

Meadows ends with a moody-funny epilogue that's a bit too tidy but hardly as maudlin as it might be; emotional control he seems to have. It would be nice next time out, however, to see him invest a bit more confidence in his ability to tell his story visually, without the crutches of song lyrics, narration and a snapshot approach to character development.

* MPAA rating: R, for language, violence and some drug content. Times guidelines: not for young teenagers, though there are lessons to be learned in the movie.


Danny Nussbaum: Tim

Bob Hoskins: Darcy

Bruce Jones: Tim's Dad

Annette Badland: Tim's Mum

Justin Brady: Gadget

James Hooton: Knighty

Darren Campbell: Daz

October Films presents a BBC/Scala Films production of a film by Shane Meadows. Directed by Shane Meadows. Written by Shane Meadows and Paul Fraser. Producer Imogen West. Executive producers Stephen Wooley and Nik Powell, George Faber and David Thompson. Director of photography Ashley Rowe. Original music by Neil MacColl and Boo Hewerdine. Production designer John Laul Kelley. Editor Bill Diver. Costume designer Phillip Crichton. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

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