Despite being based on a true story and set in 19th century England, this British boxing movie follows a well-trodden path seen in countless sporting dramas before it. Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher is a classic rags-to-riches, back-to-rags tale, with its central character learning some important life lessons along the way. There are even a couple of training montages thrown in for good measure, complete with Belcher -- played by Hookings, who also wrote the screenplay -- having to catch a fish with his bare hands and being intentionally stung by a river snake. The film is given some gravitas by a couple of heavyweights in the shape of Russell Crowe, who plays Belcher's troubled grandfather, and Ray Winstone, who plays the young boxer's weathered trainer.
However, even they play up to clichéd caricatures of themselves. Crowe's Jack Slack gruffs and hits his way through the opening 30 minutes, never quite mastering the English West Country accent. Meanwhile, Winstone is responsible for around 90% of the entire film's cursing -- "f--king" being a particular favorite of his character, Bill Warr. The movie's fight scenes are relentless, bloody, and at times gory. But they're well choreographed, and Hookings is believable as the tip-toeing, hard-hitting Belcher -- Hookings' real-life father was a boxing champion of some note. Yet while Belcher's feint, move, and hit prove unpredictable to his opponents, the same can't be said for the plot, and for that reason it fails to land any memorable punches.