Written and directed by John Monahan, a rising boxer must hide a secret from his best friend and get out from under his cruel manager’s thumb before his next big fight. Starring: Christopher Grant, Matthew Sharpe, Paul Laverty, Emma Mullholland, Erik Coleman, Daniel McAllister and Stephen McGoran.
Boxing films more often than not tend to have the same type of atmosphere and tone so it’s especially refreshing to see Pitbulls take that in another direction. Firstly writer, director John Monahan made the interesting choice to include no actual boxing and it was the right decision. That choice allows the story to stand on its own two feet, no distractions and no unnecessary budgetary requirements. It keeps the focus on the emotional nature of the story, it strikes a note that’s very organic. The way that the story moves feels completely natural and the secret our lead is holding, is actually unexpected and opens up a nice discussion about the larger themes of pride, struggle and friendship.
Friendship is the big key here because the highlight of Pitbulls is the connection and chemistry between Christopher Grant and Matthew Sharpe. It’s always great to see representations of real male friendship with authentic conversations and emotion, rather than typical traits and stereotypes. Grant and Sharpe create a relatable and sympathetic atmosphere, the bond between their characters is simple but there’s also a more complicated emotion behind it, that they gradually bring to the forefront. While Grant strongly captures that issue of pride and self-reliance, Sharpe brings generosity and compassion. It’s a great blend that gives the film a lot of charm and sincerity.
Visually, John Monahan plays things understated which was a great way to go, again it’s in keeping with letting the focus remain with the characters. There’s a simplicity to it in a very purposeful manner. It’s supported by great editing work and a good variety of angles and use of space. While it may be scaled back, the cinematography (by Thomas McKeown) is strong, holding a clear and consistent tone to the film throughout. The entire directorial style keenly reflects the tone that the story is going for.
Pitbulls is a touching story of friendship and pride. John Monahan creates a thoughtful style to both the writing and direction, giving the story plenty of space to play out with a superbly natural feel. Christopher Grant and Matthew Sharpe then take that story and give the film a big heart, they’re both endearing and create a friendship that’s genuinely lovely to watch unfold. All of which is topped by delving into a hugely relevant topic, which Monahan handles in a sensitive manner but no spoilers, so you’ll have to watch the film to find out what that is.