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Case Number 10976: Small Claims Court

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Roy Shaw: Brute Force

EPI // 2006 // 121 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // March 8th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Ian Visser has a left like a cobra, and a right like thunder. Ka-boom!

The Charge

Take a look inside the life of Britain's toughest man.

The Case

Roy "Pretty Boy" Shaw is considered to be "Britain's Hardest Man." With a propensity for both violence and crime, Shaw has become something of a legend among Britain's fight fans and followers of the underworld. As a result of his colorful past, Shaw has attained something of a celebrity status in the UK, appearing frequently in public appearances and writing a book about his life. EPI now presents the documentary film Roy Shaw: Brute Force, a chronicle of Shaw's unruly life and crimes.

Roy Shaw was a pugilist from a young age, taking up boxing as a child at the urging of his uncle. Not one for school, Shaw was eventually booted out of army for violence and became a professional boxer. Unfortunately, he also became a professional criminal. Imprisoned in 1959 and again in 1963 for armed robbery, Shaw would eventually find a career in the 1970s and 1980s as an unlicensed bare-knuckle boxer, an endeavor he undertook at the age of 42.

Shot in the documentary format, Shaw spends the film telling tales of his life to the camera, while a narration chronicles his history inside both prison and the ring. Photos of Shaw and footage of his fights are mixed with interviews from fellow fighters, criminals, and friends. Shaw can easily seem as intimidating in his later years as he did when boxing, although he comes across as a nice-enough fellow in his interviews. Unfortunately, it's often difficult to understand him because of his mumbled speech and thick accent; if ever a DVD cried out for sub-titles, this is it.

Unfortunately, rather than an investigation into the effects of violence on a person, Roy Shaw: Brute Force instead presents a glorification of Britain's gangster culture. It's a little sad to watch a seventy-one year-old man recalling horrifically violent tales and being appreciated for it. The matter-of-fact reciting of his crimes is unnerving, but you have to wonder if Shaw realizes he's being exploited by a culture that treats violence as a kind of cheap carnival show. Shaw himself never suggests his life was a wasted opportunity or that he regrets his criminal past, and the film has no interest in assessing what his life has cost him in terms of his boxing career and family.

There's certainly an interesting story to be told from Shaw's life, but it's presented in such a haphazard way and with so many gaps that we never learn much about the man. It's regrettable that the DVD decides to take the low road and glamorize Shaw's crimes and brutality. This kind of material can provide an intriguing look at an individual; the documentary The Smashing Machine takes a similar subject and creates a fascinating look into the life of a man who lives to hurt other people.

Roy Shaw: Brute Force claims to have been filmed in "gangster-vision," which seems to be another term for "cheap." Shaw's delivery isn't the most dynamic, so director Liam Galvin has decided to spice things up with dizzying effects and questionable editing choices. Not content with static shots, the camera pin-wheels about and the film stock switches from color to black and white and back. Of course, the audience for this kind of thing won't care about the stylistic elements of the film, but the rest of us will find the presentation distracting. A stereo audio track is provided, but it doesn't get challenged by this low-end production.

The extras on Roy Shaw: Brute Force follow the same path laid out by the main feature. The criminal glorification continues with a series of trailers for a variety of gangster videos chronicling the exploits of Britain's most notorious criminals, something called "Bronson Aid," a fundraiser to support long-time prisoner Charlie Bronson (who is known as "Britain's Most Dangerous Man) and a funeral tribute to Tony Lambrianou, a gangster from the Kray era of London crime. There is also a tribute to boxer Ernie Shavers, who must be popular on the other side Atlantic, since I've never heard of the bloke. Shot on cheap digital cameras and poorly edited, these features will only appeal to those foolish enough to buy into the "get rich or die trying" attitude this release is peddling.

It's a mystery to me why this product would be released here in North America. Those being featured in the film and extras are practically unknown on this side of the pond, and the Kray Brothers and their criminal legacy is likely to provoke head-scratching in the average person. There is undoubtedly a great story to be told by Roy Shaw's life, but this cheap cash-in isn't prepared to tell it.


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 40

Perp Profile

Studio: EPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Bad
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Tony Lambrianou -- Legend
• Bronson Aid
• Ernie Shavers -- Bad Boy Bash
• Until Death do Us Part
• Trailers


• Roy Shaw's Official Site

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