Peter Bradshaw

Author's posts

Nov 23

Battle of the Sexes review – Emma Stone aces it in tennis’s biggest grudge match

Steve Carell is well cast as the ex-champ who tried to prove men’s superiority on court, but Stone calls the shots as women’s No 1 Billie Jean KingThis is a seductively enjoyable, smart and well-acted film based on the most deadly serious sporting cont…

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Oct 12

Journeyman review – Paddy Considine rolls with the punches in heartfelt boxing drama

The actor-director’s forceful but flawed story of a fighter facing a bruising crisis also stars Jodie Whittaker, outstanding as his devoted wifePaddy Considine now presents his second feature as writer-director, and it’s a powerful and sincerely intend…

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Sep 21

Jake LaMotta: a flawed character alchemised by Raging Bull into a mythical figure

LaMotta was immortalised on screen by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, but their brilliant 1980 movie remade boxing history in the process

Related: Jake LaMotta, former boxer whose life was subject of Raging Bull, dies aged 95

“Now, sometimes, at night, when I think back, I feel like I’m looking at an old black-and-white movie of myself. Why it should be black-and-white, I don’t know, but it is. Not a good movie, either, jerky, with gaps in it, a string of poorly lit sequences, some of them with no beginning and no end.”

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Sep 07

Borg/McEnroe review – needle-free account of celebrated on-court duel never breaks a sweat

Shia LaBeouf is perfectly cast as superbrat tennis ace John McEnroe, but this replay of his 1980 Wimbledon final with Björn Borg fails to create drama

This tennis film feels like a two-hour baseline rally, and it’s not just the rackets that are made of wood. It is all about the allegedly fascinating psychological face-off between supercool Swede Björn Borg and the superbrat challenger from New York, John McEnroe – played respectively by Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf. It culminates in their first, titanic Wimbledon confrontation in the 1980 final. That really was an unbearably tense contest, but at the end of this film my nails remained salon-fresh. The awful truth was that for all their rivalry and wildly different styles, there wasn’t any needle between these two men personally, no tension, nothing outside the tennis court for us to get excited about.

Really, almost any other pairing of characters from this film would have been more interesting: there is McEnroe/Peter Fleming, his compatriot player and supposed friend on whom John might have played nasty gamesmanship tricks in the changing room. There’s McEnroe/McEnroe Sr, the demanding dad and professional lawyer who drove him hard. And there’s Borg/Lennart Bergelin, the coach and mentor played by Stellan Skårsgard with a perpetual look of priestly sorrow.

Related: Game, set and movie: what makes a winning tennis film?

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May 10

Jawbone review – unfakeably authentic boxing story drips with blood and tears

Johnny Harris packs a powerful punch as the star and writer of this heartfelt drama inspired by his experiences as a teenage champion in the ring

Related: Johnny Harris on Jawbone: ‘The film was always going to be about boxing and addiction’

Johnny Harris is the tough, charismatic London actor who made an indelible impression in Paul Andrew Williams’s 2006 crime drama London to Brighton and in successive series of Shane Meadows’s TV version of This Is England. Now he has written, produced and starred in a boxing film, inspired by his experiences as an ABA teenage champion.

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Apr 20

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki review – delightful, mysterious Finnish comedy

The story of a Finnish boxer taking on a big-shot US star on home turf is the basis for this strange and wonderful comedy

Here is a treat and a delight: this lovely film from Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen is a gentle, shrewd, somehow mysterious love story, based on real life, beautifully photographed in luminous black-and-white and drawing inspiration from Scorsese and Truffaut. It is inspired by the Finnish boxer Olli Mäki, who electrified Finland’s boxing fans in 1962 by getting a shot at the world featherweight title, fighting on home turf against visiting American star Davey Moore. It is to be the greatest day of his life – but not for the reasons he might once have thought.

The movie has Jarkko Lahti playing the intense, wiry Olli, who finds that as the big fight approaches, he has fallen in love with a beautiful young schoolteacher, Raija (Oona Airola) – to the horror of his tightly wound trainer and manager, Elis, played by Eero Milonoff, who occasionally resembles a young Harrison Ford. Elis’s own marriage appears to be crumbling, and he is aghast, for complex reasons, at the distractions of love, which might mess with Olli’s focus. Like Jake La Motta, Olli has a habit of zoning out in public occasions at the thought of his love, and he sometimes looks like a blond Antoine Doinel, taking 400 blows outside the ring. It is a film of immense humanity and charm: the very best kind of date movie.

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