Orthodox centres around Stephen Graham as Benjamin, a boxer-turned-butcher who’s still forced to fight because money is tight. The recession has hit his family business hard, so in order to make ends meet, long-time friend Shannon (Michael Smiley) arranges underground Ronnie Pickering-style bare-knuckle face-bashing events for him to take part in, and, when push comes to shove, the offer of committing arson, for an insurance job. It’s an easy £10k, but a dangerous payday. It doesn’t take long to realise there’s something a bit shady about Shannon.
I’m not a fan of boxing, but this film just uses that as a launchpad for the character, as he’s seen in flashback defying his father to start in boxing, the patriarch hating that he does it, but the young Benjamin (Oliver Woollford – probably best known so far as Grant in Utopia) begins with the sport in a bid to defeat the bullies. But the film is more about everything else he faces in life. As Rabbi Goldberg (Christopher Fairbank) points out to him, he’s been dealt a bad hand – and a lot of us can relate to that – but there’s also bad choices which are down to the individual.
Stephen Graham and Michael Smiley are both on top form, with the film sometimes feeling like it’s more focused on the latter, and it moves along at a fair pace over a brisk 94 minutes. In fact, it’s difficult for either of them to put a foot wrong in most things, since the pair could angrily read the contents of a phone book out, as if having a confrontational chat, and it would be riveting. In fact, I can imagine that now.
Giacomo Mancini (Gem in Top Boy) makes for good support as Daniel, a young lad, new to the gym and under Shannon’s wing, as does Rebecca Callard (Ordinary Lies) as Ben’s much put-upon wife, Alice.
Simon Robbs provides a wonderful haunting score, and the film is at times both disturbing and compelling, although it rather meanders a bit in the third act and the religious side of this film doesn’t really work as he tries to get back his Jewish faith, so it feels like it’s just there for him to look contemplative when in a troubled state at his bad lot. The title also refers to the orthodox stance of a boxer, where they place their left foot further in front of the right foot, thus having their weaker side closer to the opponent. Since it favours the stronger, dominant side – often the right side – this is the most common stance in boxing. It is mostly used by right-handed boxers.
Orthodox also stems from a short 30-minute film made by the same writer/director, David Leon, and all of the key cast members. Sadly, that’s not included on this DVD.
Now, given that Michael Smiley is in almost everything, surely he’s overtaken Kevin Bacon in the ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon‘ concept where everyone can be linked to him in no more than six steps? I think that’s something I need to look into. So, go look him up on IMDB, and it you can find anyone who you think CANNOT be linked to him in that many steps, then please let me know in the comments below.
And one quick spoiler…
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical anamorphic widescreen ratio and while I normally review Blu-rays, not everything comes out on that format so I still see the occasional DVD, and this one actually looks a little sharper than most.
The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, which helps bring out the most in the aforementioned score, whilst the rest is mostly dialogue.
There’s only a couple of extras – Cast and Crew Interviews (8:49), which is like a making-of mixing in film clips with chat from the cast and crew; and a Trailer (1:40), which doesn’t give anything away.
The main menu just a static image of Stephen Graham, set against the full track of Stefan Melbourne‘s The Ballad of Jojo Burn, which you can see here, performed at Sofar Sounds, Manchester, back in 2012 .
There are no subtitles, sadly, and the chapters are the bog-standard 12 and, as I often say, I like an average of one every five minutes at least.
Below, you can see my vlog about Orthodox, which also includes a brief clip or two…
Orthodox is released tomorrow on DVD, and click on the packshot for the full-size image.
Running time: 94 minutes
Studio: Soda Pictures
Released: May 16th 2016
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: David Leon
Producer: Daisy Allsop
Screenplay: David Leon
Music: Simon Robbs
Benjamin: Stephen Graham
Shannon: Michael Smiley
Goldberg: Christopher Fairbank
Daniel: Giacomo Mancini
Alice: Rebecca Callard
Young Benjamin: Oliver Woollford
Young Shannon: Conor MacNeill
Dimitri: Umit Ulgen
Mick: Glenn Speers
Saul: Sidney Kean
Prison Guard: Colin Coombs
Julie: Susan Wiseman
Samuel: Gordon Mounsey
Jew / Pikey Bookmaker: Mark Burns
Chav: James Sisterson
Scally: Harry Scott
Illegal Immigrant: Ian Zarate
Bah Mitzvah Extra: Stuart Ferrol
Chav: Andrew Beaty
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.