Wolfe Video // 2004 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 30th, 2004
The only chance of escaping is to fight your way out.
The story of two friends -- one a rising star in the boxing world, the other a street punk always in trouble -- Cock and Bull Story tackles the subject of homophobia and comes out swinging.
Travis Coleman (Bret Roberts) is a star boxer, and yearns to battle free of his tough Chicago neighborhood via his prowess in the ring. And he's got the mojo to do it. However, he does have one hindrance -- his best friend Jacko (Brian A. Green, Beverly Hills 90210).
Jacko is a fiery street tough, who would rather beat someone bloody with his bare hands than participate in a calm, roundtable discussion about the pros and cons of spray-painting insensitive graffiti on a wall or calling someone else names.
The two guys are friends, loyal to each other and supportive. But when the local thugs and goons start insinuating a relationship that is more than platonic, events take a turn for the violent and Jacko flips out.
Pretty soon he's laying waste to anyone that fires a suggestive remark questioning his sexual orientation...and even those who don't.
Take for example, Jacko and Travis hanging out in local bar. Jacko notices a male patron making eyes at Travis, lures the bystander into the alley, and proceeds to stomp the guy into the ground. This fella has anger issues.
Cornered by a gang of toughs, taunted, and attacked, Jacko's tumultuous life reaches the boiling point. He manages to turn the tide of the fight when he gets a hold of pipe, and brutalizes his attackers. Before one of them expires, he clues Jacko into a secret -- Travis has been winning fights with a special "clinch" move that...well, I'll let you find out for yourself.
Anyway, this revelation bowls over Jacko and he faces off with his closest friend -- minutes before the biggest fight of Travis's career -- and engages in an animated discourse of sexual identity, peppered by countless F-bombs.
This is an interesting movie. It took a sensitive topic in its sights and fired away. For the most part, I think it offered a real refreshing answer to testosterone-fueled, violent homophobia that may or may not spring from repression for these characters. The movie strives to indict this dangerous and repellant behavior, and does so...kind of.
What Cock and Bull Story does well is frame our players' grappling with questions of sexual identity, and how these questions may apply to them. By initially showing the malicious reactions the two characters have, director Billy Hayes does well laying the groundwork for the heart-to-heart Jacko and Travis have at the end of the movie.
This is good. No matter your stance on homosexuality, all rational human beings should be able to recognize that the homophobia showcased in Cock and Bull Story is blatantly irrational and malevolent.
For its ideas, the movie gets an A.
However, what brings it down a few notches for me was the execution. For one thing, the movie is just too friggin' long. Though its runtime of 105 minutes isn't really epic-length, I couldn't help but feel much could have been trimmed to make the film leaner and meaner.
Adapted from a play (also directed by Hayes), Cock and Bull Story struck me as being paced as if it were still being done on stage, rather than cinematically. Maybe I'm just a low-attention-span-having dinkoid, but the final cut could have been substantially cut.
The writing goes to this as well. Buried in a sea of profanity probably existed some decent dialogue, but I had trouble finding it. Hey, I'm all for authentic street chatter and harsh language, but there comes a point when an overabundance of the old "F-a-roo" becomes distracting, and, well, goofy. A shame, as both actors do a pretty stand-up job with their characters.
To accentuate the positive, the film looks great, even though it is a low-budget affair, as professed by Hayes himself. The stock is rough and appropriate, but by no means amateurish. Hayes has a great sense of creating atmosphere, be it in the boxing ring, a tension-filled locker room, or a dark alley. The widescreen transfer is good enough, though the action can get a bit muddled in the darkness, but that's forgivable. The 2.0 audio mix is boring, but you won't miss your surrounds, as the film is so dialogue-heavy.
The only special feature is a director's commentary. Hayes is a fairly asthmatic commentator, letting long period of silence drift by, before chiming in with a random fact, then falling silent again.
Cock and Bull Story has a great message, but its length and uneven writing keep it from advancing past the featherweight division.
TKO in the tenth round, but a valiant effort.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Wolfe Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's commentary