Title: A Prayer Before Dawn
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Starring: Joe Cole, Pornchanok Mabklang, Vithaya Pansringarm
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
What It Is: Billy Moore (Cole) is an English boxer and Muay Thai fighter living in Thailand. He is also a rampant drug addict. As his demons get the better of him he ends up in the notorious Chiang Mai Prison for possession of Ya Ba. As he struggles to fight both addiction and this prisons absolutely horrendous living conditions it’ll prove to be a battle of both his physical well-being and his overall mental state.
What We Think: This film begins and ends, lives and dies by the lead performance and from Joe Cole, it is a stellar one. Not only is Cole a fantastic centerpiece his Billy Moore is an unlikely likable protagonist. What I think is an underrated element of this stunning film is that director Sauvaire isn’t known for highly action-packed films. His approach is very different. He’s not interested in making a boxing and fight film. This is a character and environment study. It is mostly just Cole trying to get his Billy Moore out of incredibly difficult situations. Those situations are presented in an unflinching way. Even the boxing scenes, Sauvaire seems less concerned with making sure this is a good boxing flick and instead shoots the film in a more personal style. An almost handheld and shaky cam like feel. Probably to show Moore’s unhinged and drug/injury-addled demeanor.
Our Grade: A-, WHAT.A.FILM! A staggering experience to sit through and one that’s never easy because, like it’s protagonist, it pulls no punches. We’re in it. Deeply in it with Moore. Cole is the anchor and glue that keeps it all together. This is yet another feather in the cap of A24. A distribution company who I’ve called the best around. Check this one out if you can find it. It’s worth your time.