Worth seeing just for Clive Russell’s magnificent performance.
The Fighter’s Ballad is a very unusual film from a very unusual director, Tony Ukpo. Aside from some opening shots showing a few parishioners, the entire film cast consists of two actors—Clive Russell and Peter Cadwell. Because of this, the movie hinges on their performances, the writing and the ability of the director to bring it all together. Well, let’s say I was very impressed—especially since the director has only a few credits to his name so far and the film was written by Cadwell! What an amazing trio.
I’ll be blunt. The familiar character actor Clive Russell does not look like what you’d expect a priest to look like, although he was simply magnificent playing Father John in The Fighter’s Ballad. It’s so good that his performance is reason enough to see this film.
The film begins with the Father going about his rounds and then closing up the church because it’s time to go home. However, a very strange, annoying and angry young man (Cadwell) comes into the sanctuary and begins talking. Much of what he initially says makes little sense—though it’s obvious that he’s volatile and confused.
While many of us might run to get help because this man is behaving THAT strangely, the priest is a very patient man. And, when the young man is nasty and hateful, the priest continues to talk to him to determine why he is here and how he can help. But the stranger is a fighter in that he will not willingly talk about his problems—he’s angry—angry at people but especially angry at God. How effectively can the priest handle this anger? And, what’s all this about? To find out, see this film.
This is not the sort of film most people would fancy. This isn’t meant as criticism but is more an observation about the style of the movie. There are no explosions, the action all takes place in one small area and the film is a bit vague in places. However, it really is a quality production all around and just goes to show you how good a film you can make on a small budget if the people associated with the film are talented. Additionally, the music and lighting are absolutely superb and look too good for such a project! It’s really one of the strangest and most daring films I have seen. And, considering I have over 16,000 reviews to my credit so far on IMDb, that’s saying quite a bit. Film students would benefit from seeing this film to learn how to hone their skills and people who love good acting should also give it a look.
By the way, if the folks who made The Fighter’s Ballad end up reading this, you might want to consider staging this as a play—it is very gripping and would make a dandy show. It’s just a thought…
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer