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Six Rounds is the follow-up to writer/director Marcus Flemmings’ 2016 quirky comedy The Conversations, trading in laughs and stand-up for pathos and tragedy. It follows the introspective journey of former hood and amateur boxer Stally (Adam J. Bernard) as he weighs up a decision to either rejoin his old life on the wrong side of the tracks or press on into an uncertain future in a world dogged to this day by racial tensions, a theme only exacerbated by the dark shadow of the 2011 London Riots which persists and pervades throughout.
Indeed, it feels that this film has all the potential to be a stand out British feature debut, which is why the decision for it to be only an hour in length baffles. Sadly this run time will indeed insure the film will only be available to those at festivals, the mainstream or even art house circuit being too unforgiving of non-standard form such as this.
However, for those lucky enough to see this, you’re in for a treat. Flemmings and DOP Haider Zafar produce arresting visuals in raw black and white, where everything from two sweating bodies in a boxing ring to a flaming car caught on the receiving end of a molotov mid-riot look ripped straight out of a Hollywood production. The editing is slick and non-intrusive, never drawing attention to itself except for when the film intends it. And when it does, you’ll know it.
Six Rounds is extremely self-referential and reflexive, deploying a variety of strange scene set ups, compositions and ideas in order to bring you into the psychology of its characters. In one memorable sequence, we see primary love interest Mermaid (Phoebe Torrance) appear in a quick interlude discussing stars as a form of unconscious vision/memory for our protagonist, her face superimposed over a black star field. This reads as completely silly, yet it somehow works brilliantly both in the context of the film and just as a scene unto itself. Furthermore there’s an interesting plot framing device of the film being made up of Six Rounds, or vignettes, giving the film a very post-modern and arty edge.
Having already mentioned Bernard and Torrance, the performances are outstanding from all, and I was genuinely left wondering when they’ll be discovered by an entity such as the BBC. It’ll soon become obvious that this film is completely carried by its characters, so to have actors of such a caliber on a reported budget of only £7000 is an enormous accomplishment.
If there was to be minor criticism of Six Rounds it would be found in the quality of the dialogue, in which there’s the occasional clunky line that sounds like a discordant note. Fortunately, the majority is perfectly acceptable and the minority ropey lines hardly takes one out of the film.
In conclusion, if you happen to find yourself with the opportunity to check out Six Rounds then I would implore you to do so. The energy and young talent behind it is crackling and I’m almost certain this picture will lead to big steps for all involved in the future.