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  • 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 Caldwell. 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 Caldwell! 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 (Caldwell) 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
  • The other commenter here says that this film would make a good play but for me it is hard not to see it as already being a play – just one that was captured by cameras as it happened. The action plays out almost totally in a run-down church in the east end of London; a priest is locking up for the night when he is interrupted by a man who is angry and potentially violent. The man confronts the priest albeit not really about anything in particular, starting a conversation about loss, God, anger, the past and the future.

    The reason it feels very much like a play is that it is written for two men to deliver, it uses one set and other things like this, but the main thing on the page is that the speeches and long sections of dialogue, with its poetic prose and occasional use of rhymes and clever language all makes it feel like it is a performance piece rather than a character. I am not sure if Cadwell did originally write it for the stage, but regardless it feels like a theatrical experience. An additional sense of this also comes from Cadwell because his performance feels like he is giving it in a theatre and not with the camera close to him. I thought he did well with the material, but at times the size of his performance would have worked much better in a theatre rather than with the camera so close to him where such projection and excess isn't quite as fitting. It isn't a massive problem because really you need to get into this mindset to approach the film and, once there, it works very well.

    It is driven by the theatrical dialogue and performances from both men. I was surprised by how quickly the film went and how little it dragged for the whole time, and this was down to the two men. As writer Cadwell is ironically the slightly weaker of the two, although this may be that he wrote for the stage and thus acted for it too. I recently saw his opposite number Russell in short film North Atlantic and liked him even if he was very reserved in that film; here he has more to work with and does very well, with a performance that has emotional range but still works well in the confines provided by the camera. These two men hold the attention throughout and this is quite something. The film looks and sounds great as well; despite being mostly in semi-darkness, the lighting is very well done and captured well on camera, while the director Ukpo knows when to just let his camera settle and let the script play out. This is probably the best of all his films I have seen and it is the only one where he didn't write it and do lots of other roles as well – something of a takeaway there perhaps.

    The Fighter's Ballad is a film that few will ever see and where even fewer will know the names involved, however it deserves to be appreciated by more. It is very theatrical and dramatically delivered in a way that would probably work better on stage, but does still mostly work well here thanks to the good delivery by the crew to make it look and sound good, but mainly by the two actors, who sell their lines and keep you engaged throughout.