Director Jeff Celentano’s Glass Jaw charts the redemption story of Travis Austin, a former one-time champion boxer who loses everything after being sent to prison. On his release, he seeks to rebuild his reputation, his relationships, and his career.
Boxing movies are defined by genre tropes which include training montages, major setbacks and reconciliation followed by victory and an inevitable sequel shot. Although Glass Jaw has some of those elements and equips itself well within those parameters, it would be foolish to lump this in with other examples. Primarily because this is not a movie about boxing but merely one in which the sport plays a part.
To criticise it within conventional boundaries seems unfair as this is essentially a redemption story peppered with father and son dramatics, family quarrels and friendship rivalries. Through a combination of concise storytelling we get backstory combined with success and tragedy arcs within twenty five minutes. We see writer and leading man Lee Kholafai after a ten-minute segue into his childhood defined by abandonment and isolation enjoying victory and obvious success. His trainer then loses an only daughter at the after-fight party and so a rift is caused which proves crucial to selling the ultimate redemption threads.
This may have multiple clichés including villainous underhanded best friends, cantankerous trainers and last minute injuries which offer up salvation, but these filmmakers supersede those through solid production values. It may be true that the fight scenes are limited and shot from a distance, while some impact is lost through editing but Glass Jaw still remains engaging. Direction is slick if uninventive but that limitation never affects pace, atmosphere or attention span.
There are decent sub plots involving underground bare knuckle boxing and these scenes are dark, bloody and shot sparsely. However, any drama which exists between central characters is always conveniently resolved as are any long term obstacles which scupper our hero. If anything my biggest criticism with Glass Jaw is how easily drama ceases to be dramatic by the intervention of a timely event. Coincidence is one thing but in some instances it stretches believability to the max. Lee Kholafai, Jon Gries and Mark Rolston all put in solid performances as does Korrina Rico, but ultimately their commitment is let down by transparent storytelling. If that had been a match for other elements within this production then Glass Jaw could have attained a more sustained dramatic tone and resolution.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Jeff Celentano
Written by: Brandon Espy, Lee Kholafai, Korrina Rico, Michael Testa
Starring: Jon Gries, Mark Rolston, Jaime Camil
Glass Jaws was released in US on October 26.