Director Shane Meadows (who also wrote and directed Small Time, a fabulous one-hour comedy recently shown at the Film Center) tries his hand at hard-core melodrama and makes it work. In this deeply felt and freshly executed personal-best story, Bob Hoskins plays a lonely boxing coach whose project to involve the young men in his hometown in something more constructive than hanging out and getting into trouble becomes a life-changing obsession. It sometimes seems Meadows is just experimenting with one cinematic trick or another, but he brings out the meaning of each technique-oriented moment. The grainy black-and-white photography makes you feel the moisture and the tension in the air, and the sound track combines delightful borrowed music with original compositions that fearlessly approach schmaltz, setting the tone as several deceptively low-key characters gradually distinguish themselves from the pack. Meadows, who cowrote the screenplay with Paul Fraser, is far from cynical about the way in which tragedy and humor can be hard to tell apart, representing both with sober wisdom and boundless enthusiasm. Pipers Alley.

–Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.