Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007
Strength and Honor
Strength and Honor Rocky of the Irish December 05, 2007 | 10:45 AM Hollywood would have made a mess of this plot. Imagine: after Sean, a promising contender, accidentally kills his best friend in the ring, he vows to his wife that he will never fight again. After his wife dies, he renews his promise at her graveside. But matters take a turn when the bank threatens to foreclose on the house, his son contracts the same hereditary illness as his wife and the only treatment is costly beyond Sean's ability to pay. Unless, that is, he reenters the ring … Strength and Honor, by writer-director Mark Mahon, yanks at the heartstrings but with a certain gritty credence contemporary Hollywood would be hard pressed to achieve. Helping is the story's setting in rural Ireland, where one can still imagine a boxer vowing at his wife's grave to never enter another match. Maybe the keening strains of the Celtic soundtrack are more agreeable than the treacle of electric piano favored in American melodrama. It's also good that Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) plays Sean as a humble everyman, who summons reserves of strength and fortitude from adversity. The pivotal fight scenes are vividly filmed. Like the best moments of the Rocky cycle, adrenalin pumps furiously as we root for the working class hero against a brutal, Berserker opponent. Strength and Honor also assumes interesting local color from its setting among Ireland's Travelers, a subculture that reluctantly takes Sean in and gradually comes to champion him.