Fighter short film


Directed by Bugsy Riverbank Steel

Written by Guy Bolton

Starring Tommy Jessop, Simon Kunz, Laura Morgan, Robbie O’Neill, Delroy Atkinson

Short Film Review by Chris Olson


Intense and markedly compelling, short film Fighter, written by Guy Bolton and directed by Bugsy Riverbank Steel, is one of the short movies appearing at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The story revolves around the unnamed Fighter (Tommy Jessop) a would-be amateur boxer who faces numerous obstacles in his quest to get into the ring.

Surrounded by his family and boxing officials, we are introduced to Fighter preparing for an upcoming match, with his Pop (Simon Kunz) aiding him by getting him physically and psychologically prepped. Fighter has Down’s Syndrome and there is an obvious, yet largely unspoken, air of unease about allowing him to compete in the violent sport amongst the organisers, as well as his sister Crissie (Laura Morgan) who is doing her utmost to get Fighter out of harm’s way. It then becomes a question as to whether our central protagonist will be able to overcome the various parties attempting to control him, and make his own choice.

Boxing movies are a wonderful genre to explore certain themes and issues in. Movies like Raging Bull, Rocky, The Fighter, all have brilliant central characters to build their foundations on, and then use the theatrical brutality of the sport to add increasing drama and tension, whilst making potent comments about the human themes which arise, such as relationships, violence, and class. In Fighter, the theme of choice is a strong one which gets explored through the numerous characters and their agendas. Pop, for example, seems adamant that his son should step into the ring, regardless of what the officials say or who the opponent is. His tenacity in regards to his son’s fighting may seem commendable or dangerous depending on which side of the line you land on, but inevitably the audience realises that the choice must be Fighter’s. Something which becomes starkly apparent later in the short.

The performances are all strong and there is a lovely chemistry between Jessop and his brother Joel (Robbie O’Neill) which is the most affecting part of the final section of the short. Jessop handles the intense close-ups and close-quarter sequences with ease whilst mounting an increasing intensity to his physical performance which works wonderfully with the building tension made in the filmmaking. As the sound design becomes more ferocious, so does Fighter, and the sharp editing and darkened scenes are visually arresting, resulting in a captivating atmosphere which is impossible to escape. It would have been nice to explore the family dynamic a little further and get more reason to understand the various viewpoints that are circling round Fighter trying to influence him, but that would then jeopardize the knockout punch that is his dilemma and perhaps distract from his storyline.

I do want to mention the DoP Jann Doeppert, who artfully delivers some amazing spectacle when it comes to framing the scenes, in particular the opening shots of the boxing ring and the fighters. These were done with remarkable flair and were immediately striking.

Aside from being a little too short, this is formidable movie making. A blistering visual aesthetic and a strong central performance mean that Fighter could easily stand toe-to-toe with the aforementioned greats of cinema without flinching.

Watch the official Movie Trailer for Fighter below...


Fighter will be playing in the London Calling series at this year's BFI London Film Festival.

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