A Prayer Before Dawn – Movie Review – “I need to fight!”

"It Is Towards Watching A Prayer Before Dawn's Midpoint You Realise That You Are Watching a Film That Could Rival Gritty Realism of the Likes of Starred Up and Countless Other Prison Dramas...

Source: A24
"I need to fight!", shouts Billy Moore, somewhere towards the film's midpoint...

The film starts out simple enough, a young English boxer, Billy Moore, is found in Thailand with the possession of drugs. Incarcerated into a a hell-on-Earth Thailand prison, Billy struggles while he tries to work his way through boxing tournaments; he is aided by love interest, Fame, and several other characters as he aims to reclaim his freedom. But this Thailand prison setting is a nasty one… 

The film is cluttered with archetypal prison-themed plot points: drugs, gambling, contraband smuggling, gang rape, suicide, etcetera. The endless hideous list goes on. But what does director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire do in order to separate ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’, and lead actor Joe Cole as Moore, from other jailhouse dramas?

Unlike story and narrative based prison films like ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ that has many different character interactions with dialogue and voice-over, and some plot points involving culture and the bible, A Prayer Before Dawn simply refuses to give the audience a minute in an extremely graphic and visceral 1h and 57 minutes.

Right from the get-go, you are kept on your toes; Billy Moore’s inhale and exhale slowly introduces us to the boxer. Before the opening fight, a young thai man serves as Moore’s cutman and undercard. Slathering petroleum jelly on the most likely areas of impact, Moore’s face, chest and torso areas. 

It is during these early moments, we realise that Mr Moore is not in a good way. As the young boy goes to fight his match – and wins – he goes to smoke something drug related just before his boxing match, against a local thai man.

It’s to no surprise that Moore loses his match; after being beat down a few times by his opponent, Moore strikes out at the referee after declaring to him “I can fight, I can fight…”

A gashed and drugged up Moore then takes on the town. In one scene we see him sell on some kind of drug to someone, presumably to make up for his lack of winnings earlier.


Source: A24

He parties it up with some local thai girls in a strip joint, before waking up the next day boozed out of his mind…

The local thai police raid his flat the next day and find a drug-filled apartment…

And so, Billy Moore is dragged off to an infamously vile Thailand prison called, Chiang Mai jail.

It is towards watching A Prayer Before Dawn’s midpoint you realise that you are watching a film that could rival gritty realism of the likes of ‘Starred Up’ and countless other prison dramas. Beating most of them to the punch for sheer relentless grittiness, darkness, vileness and with scenes that would make you want to go a few rounds with Ali in a dingy cell than have to continue and gape in horror at some of the sickly scenes in this film (in a good way).

A flat out morality tale about what not to do in life: do drugs and run drug scams; A Prayer Before Dawn meets and greets you at the door as an addict with a lighter and a spoon preparing a dose of crack cocaine, before throwing you into a dark alleyway and battering you to death with visceral imagery and a haunting soundtrack by Nicolas Becker.

0 /10
  • Dark, terrifying, drug entranced viewing experience
  • Great central performance by Joe Cole
  • Unfortunately adds nothing new to the jailhouse genre...
  • ...but gets a pass anyway for being relentless entertainment! 8/10

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