It’s Rocky meets Brokeback Mountain in this LGBTQ sports drama. Starring Tim Roth, Jordan Oosterhof and Conan Hayes. Written and directed by Welby Ings.
“Punch” is now in theatres, and comes to VOD on March 10th, and DVD April 11th.
Jordan Oosterhof stars as Jim, a 17 year-old boxer who’s preparing for his first professional boxing match.
Conan Hayes plays Whetu, a razor-tongued gay Maori boy who lives in a shack down by the beach.
Academy Award nominee Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction, Hulk, Rob Roy) plays Stan, Jim’s father and trainer. Stan comes off as very demanding of his son in the hopes of elevating him into the professional league.
A young boxer, Jim is in training for his upcoming professional fight in his hometown.
Until recently, however, he begins to reconsider his path set for him by his father after he befriends Whetu, a gay Maori who lives on his own in an old shack around the beach.
Jim and Whetu develop romantic feelings for each other, but their love and solace are constantly at odds with the townspeople as they face bigotry and violence in a place that challenges their individuality, and their loyalty.
For a film about boxing there are not many fights or boxing matches in it. The movie does however contain plenty of training scenes and montages that illustrates Jim’s craft and dedication and will doubtless get many workout enthusiasts motivated.
The film builds up to Jim’s first match in the professional league, yet it’s not until the final act that the fight takes place, and it only lasts about two minutes.
Despite the short length, the fights are nicely shot with the performers and the sound design complementing each other to display the realism of the fight.
Welby Ings’ theatrical film debut is a harsh, yet alluring movie experience. This is not a film for the faint of heart with its graphic depictions of sex, physical assault, homophobic slurs, child abuse, and sexual violence.
It’s not a film without its bright spots, however. Despite the poverty-stricken location, the cinematography provides a mesmerising feel in its environment.
The cast give off believable performances with Jordan Oosterhof shining as the young prodigy with a lot of weight on his shoulders whilst coming to terms with his sexual identity.
Conan Hayes gives life to the outcast who faces bigotry on a daily basis, yet isn’t afraid to take action, remaining true to himself in the face of hatred. Tim Roth’s portrayal of the strict father is not without vulnerability as he shares moments of support for his son.
The ending of “Punch” is a rather divisive affair. While it is a fitting end for the main characters, on the other hand however, for fans of boxing they may be turned off by the climax after all the build-up leading towards the match.
Fans of boxing may not get the experience that is expected in a sports film as writer and director, Welby Ings set out to tell his story with the themes of self-discovery and staying true to one’s self in a cruel world that hides behind the veneer of tolerance.
The movie may be lacking in action, but makes up for it with a grounded, yet soulful journey revolving around identity, love, loyalty and hardship.
- “It’s like you climb through those ropes, and you transform.” –Jim
- “In this town, it’s a hyena. And I’m one of them.” –Jim
- The film premiered at the 2022 New Zealand International Film Festival on July 27.
- Aside from a segment on The Male Gaze: Fleeting Glances, this is Welby Ings’ feature film directorial debut.