Judging by the title, Strength and Honor, Mark Mahon's directorial debut, should inspire perseverance and the endless drive of the human spirit. After all, it is about Irish bare-knuckle boxing. So why is it that the only people who truly persevere are the viewers—for having the patience to sit through an hour and 40 minutes' worth of boxing-movie clichés?
Michael Madsen is Sean Kelleher, an Irish pugilist beset by tragedy. After accidentally killing a friend during a sparring match, he promises his dying wife that he'll never fight again. Fast-forward seven years, when his son is dying from the same disease that took his wife, and Sean is forced into the world of underground bare-knuckle fighting in order to raise enough cash to ensure his kid's recovery. Of course, it wouldn't be a boxing flick without the requisite tough-guy opponent, in this case Smasher O'Driscoll (real-life tough guy Vinnie Jones).
What we want is the little boxing movie that could. What we get is a cross between Rocky and Snatch, complete with a stale training montage, hard-to-believe fight scenes (doesn't anybody block in these things?) and a lot of ill-conceived hardship and hardassness. The main problem is that Madsen just doesn't convincingly portray sensitivity, and the rest of the cast doesn't convincingly portray much of anything (especially the kid, who you'll wish would just throw in the towel, already). You might want to root for Strength and Honor because of its noble aspirations, but by the end, the little boxing movie that could is, in fact, the little boxing movie that doesn't.