“I’ve got no family. No money. Just give me this one chance.”

A24 has released the first trailer of A Prayer Before Dawn, a boxing flick that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. A24 acquired the North American distribution rights for the Thailand-based film, which stars a brutally furious Joe Cole of Peaky Blinders fame.

Here is the official synopsis: “Prayer Before Dawn is the remarkable true story of Billy Moore, a young English boxer incarcerated in two of Thailand’s most notorious prisons. He is quickly thrown into a terrifying world of drugs and gang violence, but when the prison authorities allow him to take part in the Muay Thai boxing tournaments, he realizes this might be his chance to get out.  Billy embarks on a relentless, action-packed journey from one savage fight to the next, stopping at nothing to do whatever he must to preserve his life and regain his freedom.  Shot in an actual Thai prison with a cast of primarily real inmates, A Prayer Before Dawn is a visceral, thrilling journey through an unforgettable hell on earth.”

Already, the film’s trailer channels the claustrophobic tone of other highly volatile films such as Michaël R. Roskam’s Bullhead and David Mackenzie’s Starred Up. The tension, violence, and pent-up anger in A Prayer Before Dawn is undeniable, and packs an unrelenting punch. The film throws Cole into as real of a prison situation as an actor could get. This intense and immersive approach to a foreign setting (in more ways than one) isn’t new territory for director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and we need only look at his past filmography to see why. Sauvaire’s first feature, Johnny Mad Dog, tells the story of child soldiers on a bloody rampage through local African villages. Johnny Mad Dog featured unknown actors in the cast, some of whom were former child soldiers themselves. Sure, these are particularly unpleasant depictions of regions that get more than their fair share of movies like that, but the overall sense of realism also adds a layer of intrigue to the story.

A24 has been consistently building up a dependable resume over the years, which bodes well for such a savage take on the boxing drama. Early reactions to A Prayer Before Dawn have been rather positive too. Variety described the film as one that, “mixes down-and-dirty fight-night thrills with a kind of heightened sensory experimentalism, hypnotically fixated with bodies and motion.” The Hollywood Reporter singles out Cole, whose “searing intensity and total commitment to the physical demands of the role is integral to the film’s effectiveness.” As yet, there is no domestic release date set for A Prayer Before Dawn, although it wouldn’t be a stretch to ballpark it sometime next year.

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