Nov 22, 2018
Here’s a bonus episode for today, as I work to get caught up. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go back and download my review for “Outlaw King” (Episode #314), where I spoke about having to be evacuated due to the wildfires in California, and how it puts a lot of things into perspective. It’s actually the second time we have had to evacuate, the first time being five years ago during the Springs Fire, where I could actually see the fire burning down the hill right out our window. That evacuation was a certifiable clusterfuck, but this one, as far as leaving behind everything you hold dear goes, was much better. It made the hour on the road to go four miles not seem so bad.
I’ll be continuing this narrative with each episode as we get caught up. Let me know if you’re listening by sharing this episode and using #WelcomeBackOMP, or reach out over social media. I’ll add you to my list of people to thank as we get caught up.
Today’s second thank you is Andrew Campbell, my one and only sponsor at patreon.com/onemoviepunch. He reached out right after I posted the first update and asked if there was any way he could help. Unfortunately, I was limited to my laptop and phone, which I used to post the last episode I had ready, with winds gusting up to 60 or so miles per hour. Recording in the motor home we were sheltering in was going to be impossible. I wish I could have turned things over to someone, and that’s a lesson I hope to take into next year. So, Andrew couldn’t help then, but check back in a little later with the podcast.
Andrew’s a good person. Here’s a promo to remind you, and we’ll hit the review up after that.
Today’s movie is “A Prayer Before Dawn” (2017), the international biopic directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, written for the screen by Jonathan Hirschbein and Nick Saltrese, and distributed by A24 and DIRECTV. The film follows the true story of Billy Moore (Joe Cole), a British boxer who winds up in a Thai prison after being arrested on drug charges. However, after watching the fates of his fellow inmates, he strives to join the prison Muay Thai boxing team for a chance at freedom.
Also, some trigger warnings. This film has one graphic scene of sexual assault in prison, which while pertinent to the story, is definitely not going to be possible for everyone. If the content will be a problem for you, skip this movie and the review, and come back tomorrow.
For some reason, this year appears to be the year of movies and television involving prisons and fighting rings, both legal and illegal. Already this season on the CW, both “Arrow” and “Riverdale” have Oliver and Archie fighting in prison. Earlier this year, I watched “The 4th Company” (Episode #108), which was a juvenile detention exploiting prisoners for American football. And today, I’m reviewing a film with almost the exact same plotline, which rather than focusing exclusively on the tantalizing thought of underground or exploitative prison fights/sports, takes a true story of redemption done in an art-house style, and while it pulls no punches (pun very much intended), it does deliver a beautiful, if brutal film.
“A Prayer Before Dawn” follows Billy Moore, who has a mean problem with yaba, a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine, which can be taken in pill form, or can be freebased. As you can imagine, it’s highly addictive, and comes with intense withdrawals, which after Billy makes it to prison, becomes the first of many dangers to avoid, along with the aforementioned rape scene, the threats upon his life for being unable to pay for drugs, and the additional exploitation by the guards. Thai prisons are not known for their concern for human rights, so the fact that Billy Moore survives at all is somewhat of a miracle. Joe Cole’s performance feels realer than most other kickboxing films, communicating a great deal of emotion without a lot of dialogue, and always a little frightened by his environment and himself.
Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire has a great talent for finding the right filters and sequences to tell this story, melding them with great sound editing that is part washed out movie score, part regional instruments and flavors. And this beauty is counterbalanced by the brutality of the environment and the actors within the story, many of which were actual prisoners, bringing intensity to their supporting performances. And best of all, while the film contains more than a few fights, within and outside the ring, the focus is firmly on Billy Moore’s attempt at redemption, taking him to the brink of death, and obviously since it is based on his memoir, takes him away from the brink, with a well-placed cameo by the real Billy Moore to drive home the story. Really well done.
“A Prayer Before Dawn” (2017) is a redemption story masquerading as a prison fight movie, luring viewers in a delightful bait and switch that elevates films with similar themes and stories. Joe Cole is spectacular and Sauvaire finds new, beautiful, and brutal ground for the genre, which would be hard to deny, especially with a podcast called One Movie Punch. Fans of prison films, or martial arts films, or most importantly, stories of redemption, should definitely check out this film, but heed all the very real trigger warnings and act appropriately.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (FRESH)
One Movie Punch: 8.8/10
“A Prayer Before Dawn” (2017) is rated R and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.