Review: My Name Is Lenny (2017)

If you want something different from the summer blockbusters, hard-hitting gritty drama My Name Is Lenny is worth a watch

My Name Is Lenny is a sport drama which deals with the darker side of unlicensed boxing in the 70s focusing on Lenny McLean (Josh Helman) and his three fights with the undisputed heavyweight champion Roy ‘Pretty Boy’ Shaw (Michael Bisping).

Although the film is based in the world of unlicensed boxing, the film goes beyond the fighting and looks back at some of the events that created the man Lenny was to become. Most notably his relationship with his violent stepfather, played by Lenny’s nephew Martin Askew, who is also one of screenwriters. Through flashbacks you get a glimpse of the violence of his childhood and the drive he had to fight his way out. The film doesn’t make excuses for some of his actions, but it does give you an insight of why it was so important to be known as ‘The Guv’Nor’.

Josh Helman does a brilliant job portraying Lenny McLean, with his voice and mannerism, but it’s during the heated moments where you can really see Lenny, with a real burning behind his eyes. In a scene, just before he fights Roy Shaw for the third time, he is approached by his father who says, “I made you who you are”, the cold piercing stare Helman gives back really embodies the anger. But it’s not all about the violence as Lenny is also portrayed with a vulnerable side, which is often understated considering his reputation. It would have been interesting if they explored this side further, although this may have distracted from the main focus of the film.

There is also a great supporting cast with Chanel Cresswell tackling an emotional role as McLean’s wife Valerie and Nick Moran as Johnny Bootnose, who helps deliver some subtle humour to the film. It also proved to be the final performance for John Hurt, who delivers once again with a brief but memorable cameo. I am sure he would have been proud of this film, ending his career on a high.

The film does well to keep a balance, considering the amount of involvement from his family in the making of the film. They don’t try to make excuses for his actions, but they don’t portray him as a monster either. They capture his wit and personality which makes him an endearing character and you can’t help but laugh during some of the fight scenes. But they also capture a darker side, a deep anger which was further fuelled by his alcoholism. From a charming caring character, he can become overbearing and bullish. The director Ron Scalpello doesn’t hold back when it comes to portraying his violent temper. The shots, although mainly off camera, are raw and bloody, with a scene where he nearly kills his cousin in a drunken rage by biting his throat off, brutally savage.

This is a great film which gives an honest insight into the man himself, based on his autobiography. It is likely to get overlooked, due to the gritty notoriety of unlicensed boxing, but the film they created delivers so much more. It’s a gripping drama at heart, with some great performances from the cast, which ensures the film continues to hit just as hard outside of the ring, as it does inside.

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