Monday, 26 April 2010


Vendetta Films
Available now on DVD

Not quite an Irish Rocky, Strength and Honour is a boxing film that, like all boxing films, has its protagonist come back from the bottom to achieve a shot at the championship. In this instance the pugilist is Sean Kelleher (Michael Madsen), who retired from the sport after accidentally killing a sparring partner. The illness of his young son is the reason for his once more returning to the ring.

The championship he enters is not an internationally recognised event but one held annually by the Traveller (gypsy) population of Ireland. It's also a bare-knuckle, no-holds barred event and usually only open to members of the Traveller community.

Sean is not a Traveller but finds himself living amongst their community when medical costs have him move out of his house and into a caravan. The Council of this community reluctantly allow him to fight as one of them, partly because of his dying son and also because the reigning champion, Smasher O'Driscoll (played by former soccer star, Vinnie Jones), is a boorish thug whom nobody much likes.

The events in writer-director Mark Mahon's film play out exactly as you'd expect but that didn't prevent it winning several festival awards, including Best Director and Feature at the 2008 New York International Film Festival. And while Madsen gives a solid low key performance the film never reaches any great dramatic (or boxing) heights. The lilting, Enya-esque music which plays over training montages, there to remind us that we are indeed in Ireland, is more annoying than evocative.

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