The true story of an English boxer incarcerated in one of Thailand’s most notorious prisons as he fights in Muay Thai tournaments to earn his freedom.
Based on the true story of a British man who was incarcerated in Thailand’s prison system, ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’ is a brutal, visceral movie about a young man’s struggle to survive and fight his way out of the system. That young man is Billy Moore (Joe Cole), who we first see selling drugs which is what leads him to be imprisoned in the first place. Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire isn’t interested in moralising or even rehabilitation, but purely in survival in an incredibly tough and brutal prison system and in Joe Cole, he has an actor superbly suited to the part.
Joe Cole will be best known to UK audiences as John Shelby in TV’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ and on the evidence of ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’, a successful career in cinema awaits him. His performance is almost entirely physical, relying on few words as he tries to navigate a prison where he is the odd one out as the only white man. Sauvaire chooses to avoid using subtitles for the Thai dialogue and this works really well to put us in Billy’s shoes and enhance the sense of alienation he must have felt. The harshness of his environment is emphasised through some brutal scenes that will leave you shaking and it’s only when he gets involved in boxing at the prison that he can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Through fighting in tournaments and getting the prison’s warden on side he manages to get some perks and ultimately his freedom (with perhaps some external support that isn’t explored in the film), but his journey is well worth watching.
A combination of boxing and prison movie with a harsher edge on account of the narrative’s basis in real life, ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’ is a brutally efficient drama that acts as a showcase for the work of both Joe Cole and director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and I was very impressed by it.
Directed By: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Starring: Joe Cole, Vithaya Pansringarm, Panya Yimmumphai, Pornchanok Mabklang and Somluck Kamsing