Written and directed by Marcus Flemmings (Palindrome), amongst the 2011 London riots, a former boxer needs must choose between his past or a new future. Starring: Adam J. Bernard, Santino Zicchi, Phoebe Torrance, Carolyn English, Thomasin Lockwood, Daniel Johns, Rob Peacock and Chris Rochester.
Undoubtedly this film hits some sadly relevant notes, following Stally (Bernard) through a brief couple of days in his life exposes his attempts to rise above a life of drugs and crime, to build a relationship and the casual but blatant racism he encounters. If the past few months have taught the world anything, it’s how rampant racism still is in society, it may be more publicly highlighted in the US but the UK isn’t much better, so even though this film is three years old, it’s likely to still be relevant for many years to come. The filmmakers’ choice to also make it in black and white is a decision that allows focus to remain on the issues at hand, rather than an unnecessary flair, as can often be the case.
Bernard holds the lead well as Stally, his character is an interesting mix of the modern man, he has some of the classic masculine traits and values, while being slightly open and vulnerable, he’s caring but no push over and he has a solid focus on moving forward and his future. The supporting actors get a varying degree of involvement, most notably Torrance as Stally’s girlfriend and Zicchi as his overly confident friend who’s found himself in a heap of trouble, they both bring out different sides to his character. There’s an issue of the performances feeling somewhat wooden, Zicchi really hits the classic toxic masculinity but it’s one note and Torrance lacks a more convincing chemistry with Bernard. Also, Bernard struggles slightly when it comes to the more emotional moments of the story, particularly a drunken rambled fight with his own conscience misses the mark for something deeper and believable but he gives it a decent shot.
While it may restrict its visual slightly by keeping to black and white, you won’t miss it with the great location choices working at full impact with the direction and cinematography, it captures a real London and not the tourist version you see too often in film and TV. Telling a close and personal story, you might imagine that Flemmings would go for a simpler style but it’s a pleasant surprise how varied his shots are, they add a great amount of movement and feeling to the visual. The writing also captures the casual racism against black people in Britain extremely well, it’s perfectly patronising and condescending in a way that walks that line of shocking yet unsurprising. Additionally, as mentioned already, Stally’s character has a nice depth to him, athletes can often be depicted with singular focuses and stagnant personalities but he feels genuinely individual. The progression of his story however is a little messy, the back and forth was a good idea initially to reveal it in chapters but it can feel jarring, particularly in the opening, it holds such a strong singular focus on Stally that when it moves on, it isn’t as smoothly transitioned as it could be. Throughout it does feel like it has something to say but it doesn’t quite hit it with the bang that it needed to really breakthrough emotionally.
Six Rounds is eye-catching, utterly relevant, personal and real. Flemmings uses a brilliant variety of shots to heighten the drama which is only pushed further by the cinematography from Haider Zafar. There are a few issues with the story progression and impact, and the actors’ believability in more emotional moments but given that it was the filmmaker’s first feature, teething issues are expected. This film shows Flemmings’ potential, which is more realised in his second feature, it has the kind of raw talent that you can’t help but be intrigued to see more of.