A Violent Man (2020) Review
Shot and premiered in 2020 and released in the UK earlier this year, A Violent Man is the directorial debut of actor Ross McCall (Green Street Hooligans, 24: Live Another Day). It’s also being billed as the latest Tubi Original. I’m not quite sure how that works, but so be it. The real question is, is it any better than the crap that is shot specifically for the streaming service?
Opening with a stabbing that’s shot upside down and frequently, and intentionally, put out of focus by light streaming in through a cell window, A Violent Man is the story of Steve Mackleson (Craig Fairbrass, Villain, Rise of the Footsoldier: Part II). He’s twenty years into a life sentence for killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend, and is the most feared man in the prison. He also knows he’ll never leave it alive.
He’s also got a daughter Rebecca (Rosie Sheehy) who he’s never met but who wants to meet him. And he’s getting a new cellmate Marcus Wainwright (Stephen Odubola, Blue Story) who has, whether rightly or wrongly we don’t know, been labelled a snitch and who can’t stop dealing drugs even while doing time for it. And despite the violent disapproval of the facility’s “official” supplier.
Despite being billed as an action film and a thriller, both by Tubi and on IMDB, A Violent Man is much more of a drama, a character study of a man who is being forced to confront the demons of his own past and present. The violent rages that got him where he is now. Not only locked up, but with the prospect of having to explain to his daughter why he killed her mother.
A lot of this is related during sessions with Claire Keats (Zoë Tapper, Big Boys Don’t Cry, Blood) the social worker in charge of arranging the meeting between him and his daughter. We also get several voiceovers of his internal monologue telling us what he really feels. It’s not a technique I’m a fan of, but it works here, where he has to hide at least some of his true feelings if he wants the meeting to happen. And to avoid further trouble from the authorities.
What on-screen violence there is comes from A Violent Man’s other plot thread, as Mackleson tries to prepare Marcus to survive his term and deal with the issues already facing him. There isn’t much of it, and it’s certainly not what you would expect from a prison film starring Craig Fairbrass.
A Violent Man also features a performance you wouldn’t expect from Craig Fairbrass, especially if all you’ve seen him in are the Rise of the Footsoldier franchise or something like Avengement. Most of the film is set in one location, the small cell Steve and Marcus share, and rarely with more than one or two people in the scene with him. It’s almost like a stage play and, like a play, the focus is on his performance. And he does an excellent job of expressing what is going on in the mind of his character. He proves he’s more than capable of carrying a film with his performance rather than his physicality.
Similarly, Ross McCall has shown a lot of potential behind the camera, especially for somebody who hasn’t done so much as a short or an episode of a TV show before. He delivers a compelling drama and gets the kinds of performances a film like this needs from a cast with, apart from Fairbrass, limited experience. It will be interesting to see what he does next.