Directed by Ross McGowan and written by Craig McDonald-Kelly, who also stars in the film, Mason Mendoza (Christopher Evangelou) is fighting his former stable buddy Andre Gibson (Humzah Awan), his father, esteemed coach Eddie Royce (James Cosmo) is in Andre’s corner. It’s round 9, Mason is down on points, he’s fighting for everything. Also starring: Jay Rincon, Jade Morris, David Hepburn and Semsi Ucan.
Something that definitely should be kept in mind while watching this film, is that the entire thing was shot in only 30-minutes, even for an 8-minute short that’s an intensely restricted shoot so the end result is instantly impressive. The aspect that it influences and improves your appreciation of most is McGowan’s direction, boxing isn’t one of the easiest sports to capture right for the screen, even more so with an indie budget, but he still manages to inject style, movement and energy into the scenes. There’s a great variety in his shot choices, it flows with the fight and doesn’t simply feel like it’s filmed as if it’s a match you’d watch on TV, it gives more of a personality to the visual.
The performances from this ensemble especially fit that real, down to earth, underdog tone that they’re going for, they feel like everyday people, it’s purposefully unpolished and authentic. Evangelou’s portrayal of Mason is well done, there’s a lot of emotion at work and he brings it through in a subtle but effective way, the distracted air and resentful looks towards his father, it could have easily been a role that led to a more melodramatic performance and it’s ideal that he didn’t take that route at all. David Hepburn and Craig McDonald-Kelly, who are both also producers on the film, bring a huge enthusiasm and aggressive passion to Mason’s corner, they’re loud, loyal and determined. Game of Thrones, Braveheart and His Dark Materials actor James Cosmo has a small but significant part to play in this story and delivers it satisfyingly, bringing through the story’s emotional peak.
The way that the writing chooses to present the story through a strong, leading inner monologue is a fairly unusual choice for this kind of film. It plays out in such a way that it provides an overriding singular focus which impressively doesn’t take away from the visual but gives an efficient and effective method to develop the story without having to cut back and forth from other scenes for context. It’s a great way to explore the character’s insecurities and fears which add a depth to the film. There are a couple of issues, firstly with the cinematography and colour palette of the film, it can be overly dark, it works in some moments but in others it feels like it takes away from scenes slightly. Its ending may also be a more contentious point, it does fit the emotional leanings of the story and is a very clear metaphor for the character’s development but feels out of place when considering the larger picture and the implied journey to reach the point in which the film takes place.
Shadow Boxer is energetic, authentic and a very effective way to tell an underdog story in less than ten minutes. The direction and editing provide a great deal of movement and personality to the visual and the boxing is captured well, it has that adrenaline style of energy which makes the fight more convincing. The writing is very down to earth and the performances do well to reflect that and both go into creating a fairly raw atmosphere. There’s clearly a solid team-effort that’s gone into making this film and the fact that they managed to film it in 30-minutes considering the high quality of its direction, is a sincere achievement.