Written by: Adam Vaughn | July 30th, 2020
The Shadow of Violence (Nick Rowland, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
A lot of films come to mind when watching The Shadow of Violence, which is not so much of a negative reflection on the film as a nostalgic return to themes and ideas that Hollywood has experimented with in the past. The Shadow of Violencepresents the well-crafted journey of Douglas “Arm” Armstrong, a veteran boxer who is now a muscle man for a drug-dealing, family-owned syndicate. Arm (Cosmo Jarvis, Lady Macbeth) tries to tackle the turmoil between his ex-wife, Ursula (Niamh Algar, From the Dark), and his mentally disabled son Jack (Kiljan Moroney in his debut role), while also keeping up with the increasingly dangerous job of running with a crime boss and his nephew.
The film does a tremendous job of making Arm likeable despite his unruly choices and his aggressive demeanor. My biggest fear going into the film was seeing a character whose tragic flaw was his anger and his physically violent nature towards others. I immediately presumed, because of the title, that I was watching a variant of Raging Bull or The Departed. But I was surprised to find that Arm and the characters around him were not excessively violent or given to an immense amount of sex, drugs and obscenities. Instead, the film homes in on Arm as an individual, forcing the audience into his direct perspective and continuing to focus on his choices and outcomes.
This, to me, does the film both good as well as harm. On the positive (and extraordinarily powerful) side of things, the main point of tension in this crime drama is created from the audience following Arm’s descent into chaos as his choices anger and upset the people around him. Consequently, this does pull away from the supporting characters in the scene, making them more caricatures rather than actual people in Arm’s life. Some of this is due to the drop in script quality as the film goes on, and some is from the lackluster performances of the supporting actors. One exception is the dynamic between Arm and Ursula, which leads to a very emotional ending for the film. Overall, the film makes for a simple, yet effective, addition to the crime drama, worthy of some acclaim for its storytelling and design.