4 out of 10

Release: 27th July 2012

Director: Dan Turner (Stormhouse)

Cast: Ashley Thomas, Peter Mullan, Michelle Ryan, Jason Maza, Jenny Jules, Lennox Malachi Kambala, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Bhasker Patel with Ray Panthaki and David Harewood

Writer: Dan Turner


The Man Inside, an urban boxing drama,is a real mixed bag.  It’s a bundle of energy and ideas that is as schizophrenic as the main character.  Wildly erratic performances stick out like sore thumbs against some career bests.  The plot piles incident upon tragedy on top of our hero, an amateur boxer called Clayton (ASHLEY THOMAS – THE VETERAN) as he battles to keep his volatile temper in check.  Surviving a really disturbing childhood at the hands of his murderous father, Clayton battles to keep is sanity and not fulfill a prophecy that he is very much his father’s son.  His younger brother (LENNOX MALACHI KAMBALA) and sister are embroiled in a fight with a local thug. Said thug is the sister’s ex, who wants her current boyfriend off the scene.  Her brothers approach the situation in two different ways. The younger brother wants to knife the threat. Our hero thinks the the thug’s brother, who happens to be his boxing partner can smooth a path.  Boxing is an important escape for Clarence but much to the chagrin of his trainer, he cannot let his anger get released. Will Clarence stick to the good road or crumble and fulfil his mother’s prophecy.  To be honest, the proceedings are so bleak, his future is hard to read. The muddled narrative does have this much going for it.

Throw into the mix a burgeoning love affair with a recovering crack addict played by Michelle Ryan (EASTENDERS), an intrusive oppo (RAY PANTHAKI – SCREWED) of his imprisoned father mixing up the feud with nebulous offers of help and a religious nut of a mother (JENNY JULES – VICTIM), who may just be as unhinged as his father, The Man Inside has too many plots vying for attention and empathy.  Ashley Thomas’s character is bounced from one scenario to the next rendering his role at the mercy of the editors.  Laughter is swiftly followed by pain then back to laughter.  As I said earlier, some of the performances, Ashley Thomas’s included, are career bests but these are tipped over by a totally mis-cast Michelle Ryan. A bad actress at the best of times, it sadly shows up clearer in a lead role. Jason Maza (TRUTH OR DARE) is largely wasted and comes across as awkward as Clarence’s boxing partner.  The lion’s spoils go to Peter Mullan (TYRANNOSAUR) as the trainer and David Harewood (VICTIM) as the jail-bird father.  Both put in amazing performances as opposing guardians of Clarence’s soul.  Peter Mullan channelling the boys’ anger through boxing and David Harewood’s towering, one-dimensionally evil father striking the fear of god into all who cross his path.  He is particularly chilling in flashbacks to a murder witnessed by a 5 year old Clarence.  He comes across almost as terrifying as Hannibal Lecter from Silence Of The Lambs.

As mixed up as The Man Inside is the central message of finding an alternate path to violence is loud and clear.  It’s a brave and experimental film which is salvageable purely down to great acting.  It’s let down by a cluttered plot but when it grips it really does.  Special mention goes to the flashback scenes to Clarence’s childhood. Those two or three minutes will make this film stay with you longer than it should.  Shame about the cringe-worthy Michelle Ryan performance and a plot which could flippantly written off as a street level Incredible Hulk.

This certainly marks Ashley Thomas out as an actor to watch after this and his smaller role in The Veteran.

4 out 10 – All marks are for the performances alone and those upsetting yet emotional splinters of flashback.  Interesting but majorly flawed….



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