“Risen Has Fallen!”…A Review of “Risen” (2010)

“Risen” (2010) directed by Neil Jones is a film I would label as a “biopic”; the film’s intention was to create and portray the story of boxer Howard Winstone from “Valley Boy” to “World Champion Boxer”. I will state now that I did not enjoy this film in the slightest and I am not reviewing it just to criticise it or make fun of it; I was actually glad I had watched this film simply because it was an example of poor film making and what not to do when making a film; it interested me from the point of view of an amateur student film maker and in terms of cinematography, direction, editing and performances this film was just that-amateur. It was my father who suggested watching “Risen” as he had spent some time living in Merthyr Tydfil and briefly knew Howard Winstone during his post-boxing career, therefore it was a subject of interest for him; from what I had been told about Howard Winstone (Played by Stuart Brennan- who my father said was a good likeness to him) I expected his story to be powerful and dramatic; however the film just did not deliver that.

What’s unfortunate is I like to support Welsh cinema as I feel its very underrated and not promoted enough as most films from my home land are produced on small budgets; this was an evident factor in “Risen”; however just because the budget wasn’t as massive as a Hollywood Blockbuster doesn’t mean a decent film cannot be made; although in this case it was as if the film maker’s wanted to use every single irrelevant detail as possible. In all honesty I have seen short films made by colleagues off my university course on literally no budget at all that have entertained me and been a better quality of film making than this. Throughout, the film felt like it could have been good but every single aspect of it was lacking. For me, the film consisted of shaky camera work which mostly showed the floor being filmed, reminding me of my Dad filming home movies of family holidays and Christmas etc back in the 1990’s! Along with hand held shots that served no relevance or purpose and performances were so subtle that they failed to convey the dramatic nature of the story. I found it extremely irritating that when characters were engaging in conversation long shots were being used, was it trying to suggest as an audience we were meant to be at a distance from the story and the relationships with the characters? At crucial moments I just felt it would have been conveyed better if medium close-ups were used and then when they were used characters head’s were being cut out of the frame. The use of shallow focus in the film was considerably poor and as an audience we don’t really need to be viewing a blur on screen; especially in the fight scenes, this choice of effect was considerably distracting. The cinematography also tended to just focus on random inanimate objects a lot that slowed down the pace of the film; for example a bottle of alcohol to suggest Howard’s wife Bennita (played by Grainne Joughin) was turning to drink during his absence and a drain in the communal showers after Howard had come out of one of his fights. Another irritating aspect of the film was the sound. Whoever was in control of the boom did a pretty poor job as there was far too much background noise and the dialogue was barely audible; then when it came down to editing the music that was added on top of the dialogue made it even more painful to watch/listen to. During one of the later fight scenes the audio was completely gone and a piano piece played over the scene, this was more suited to a film about ballet rather than boxing and completely overpowered any kind of tension or atmosphere that should have been in place; as an audience we need to be on the edge of our seats but personally I felt more like falling asleep. An alternative would have been to have sharp sounds of the crowds gasping and cheering and of the punches thrown in order to create a powerful moment. The only attempt at atmosphere during the scenes in the ring was having a group of men singing the Welsh national anthem, which just felt like filler and again diverted away from the action of the fights for far too long; “Yeah we get it! The Welsh are Patriotic!”

The plot didn’t seem to create a sense of time or place; there was no indication to suggest that the story was set in the South Wales Valley’s apart from within the dialogue e.g. talking about going down the pit; other than that it could have been set anywhere, there was also no sense that we were heading back in time to the late 1950’s to 1960’s apart from title cards that revealed the year on every fight scene; which just felt lazy and formulaic, nothing suggested time was moving forward. There were moments where the editing felt as if it was on helium, it was sped up for no particular purpose in scene’s such as Howard announcing to his wife that he is to be fighting Terry Spinks (played by Billy Rumbol) and when his wife and mother came to blows over her leaving him for someone else; maybe there was a legitimate reason for this choice of editing but I just didn’t get it. Scenes’s just appeared to have no conclusion and would move on from one situation to the next e.g. from Howard going home drunk to him fighting in the next scene; it just didn’t flow very well and scenes seemed out of place. One of the worst scenes for me was when Howard takes his friend Don (played by Edward Eales-White) to a club for a few drinks; again the dialogue was barely audible and the focus was more on the band who were singing there than the actual protagonist, with atrocious, blurry, close up shots that served no meaning to the plot, it was as if the film makers thought “their part of the budget therefore lets use as much footage of them as we can”.

Overall as you can tell, I was largely disappointed with the quality of this film and how badly constructed it was, unfortunately I didn’t get a sense of what the true Howard Winstone was really like as the portrayal was very vague. I don’t think it did him justice. I thought that if I wanted to sit through a film with poor acting, direction, shots, soundtrack and editing I would have had more enjoyment out of sitting through Tommy Wiseau’s cult “worst-movie-ever” “The Room” (2003)! “Risen” was definitely an education into poor film making and I really hope that Howard Winstone’s inspirational story of a man who never gave up and overcame obstacles to achieve his dream of boxing world champion is remade to a better effect than this.


Hayley Alice Roberts.

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