Jordan Oosterhof (L) and
Tim Roth star in the film, “Punch,” on DVD Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures
NEW YORK, April 11 (UPI) — Reservoir Dogs and Tin Star actor Tim Roth says Stan, the alcoholic dad he plays in the new drama film Punch, is ignoring the wreckage of his own life to concentrate on his teen son’s promising boxing career.
“I’ve been around alcoholics. We all have. It’s a lot of people’s drug of choice. This is a guy who, obviously, is encaging his feelings in alcohol, suppressing them, diminishing them and putting them aside and focusing on one thing,” Roth told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
“His love for his son wasn’t something that he necessarily spoke about. It was evident if you care to see it.”
Stan sees hope for Jim where he doesn’t hold out for it for himself.
“He’s launching Jim into this world via a very violent sport, but seeing that his son was good at that, encouraging him and brow beating him meant that Jim could go, whereas he could never leave what he felt about himself and what his life had been,” Roth said.
Written and directed by Welby Ings, the movie comes out on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday. It is also available on digital and on-demand platforms.
Set in a small town in contemporary New Zealand, the story follows Stan as he trains Jim (Jordan Oosterhof) to be a boxer just as Jim is developing a friendship with the flamboyantly gay town pariah Whetu (Conan Hayes).
“These difficult things in life, these emotional journeys when you read it in a script, that’s what lights your fire and makes you go: ‘Let’s study this and get as deep as we can and see what humanity we can find through doing it,'” Oosterhof said.
“It is such a raw script and so much emotion in the trajectory of all the characters that I think, for myself and everyone else, had this burning desire to turn it into something worthy from the script to the screen.”
Jim and Stan deeply revere boxers and the qualities that make athletes good ones such as a physical strength and emotional perseverance.
“It seems like Jim and Stan have been fighting their entire lives. You mess with us, but we are going to fight back even harder,” Oosterhof said.
“It’s that ‘against all odds’ concept,” Roth agreed.
In real life, the older actor has never been to a boxing match, however, Oosterhof went many times while he was training five days a week for three months in the ring himself.
“It’s visceral. It’s like the whole crowd is almost in the ring themselves, screaming and baying for blood,” he said.
“It’s quite animalistic in some ways, but also graceful and light and beautiful. It’s such a weird contradiction.”
Oosterhof described Jim as a young man being pulled in all of these directions as he is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants out of life.
“He is making traction with his boxing. He has this strained, but loving relationship with his dad, the pressure of being this town’s golden boy. All the other people are like: ‘Oh, look what Jim is doing,'” he said.
Complicating matters is his friendship with Whetu and their neighbors’ negative reactions to it.
“There’s this sort of burgeoning feeling of attraction and a calling to spend time with Whetu, this person that represents so much strength and such a ‘I don’t give a [expletive] attitude,’ even when the whole town is against him,” Oosterhof said.
“It’s just a beautiful story to see the trials and tribulations of someone going through that stage and fighting for their place and where they belong in the world.”
Ings tried for 14 years to get the film green-lit and refused to compromise on his vision.
“When I got the script and read it, I was like, ‘This story should be told.’ Welby has been on this quite some time, trying to get this film made,” Roth said.
“Welby stuck to his guns, which is very typical of him. He was like, ‘It is this way or not [at all],” the actor added. “He got to tell it his way. You read it and you feel the passion in it. It is a beautiful, worrying at times, extraordinary, very private journey that you go on with these people.”
The cast and crew strove to make the characters and scenes ring true.
“You better get that right and I think that was partly in the back of everyone’s minds, ‘Let’s do this justice,'” Roth said.
The actors hope the film, which takes place in an isolated locale where attitudes regarding social or ideological issues may lag decades behind those in other parts of the world, opens hearts and minds.
“That’s always the hope,” Roth said. “It’s very difficult to get pieces like these made, especially nowadays, and it’s hard to get them out there. It’s a very difficult road. But you’ve got to keep doing them, keep doing them, keep doing them.”
Oosterhof added: “In these metropolitan areas, we are liberal, we are forward-thinking, we assume everyone for who they are, but the reality is the further you get [from them], the more isolated you get.
“There are some places where mentalities are trapped 30, 40 years ago and that is tough,” he said. “The thing about Welby’s script is that you can even feel it while you’re reading that — the subtle building of this layer that this town has around everyone that’s in it and it is an ideological layer, not necessarily a physical one.”