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A Prayer Before Dawn

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

United Kingdom, France, China

2018

Rated R • 1h 56m

Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Starring Joe Cole, Vithaya Pansringarm, Pornchanok Mabklang, Nicolas Shake

Genre Drama, Action, Crime

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The remarkable true story of Billy Moore, a troubled English boxer incarcerated in Thailand's terrifying Chiang Mai prison. Thrown into a world of drugs and violence, he realizes that his best chance to escape is to fight his way out in the Muay Thai kickboxing tournaments.

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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

100

Empire by Andrew Lowry

For all the flying fists and the hero’s nightmarish predicament, the notions of redemption examined here are plenty deep. Add that to the bone-crunchingly effective technique and flawless lead performance, and you have yourself something very rare: a testosterone-driven narrative that’s about nurturing, rather than destruction. And one that achieves a bleeding-knuckled profundity.
67

IndieWire by Ben Croll

Jean-Stephane Sauvaire’s film is not so much the story of a fighter as it is a story that wants to fight you.
63

Slant Magazine by Chuck Bowen

A Prayer Before Dawn is concerned above all with ensuring that we share its main character's sense of dislocation and entrapment.
80

Screen International by Fionnuala Halligan

Cole, best known for a supporting role in the TV series Peaky Blinders, gives everything to this role. It’s a physical transformation in which he convincingly plays a beaten, battered-to-a-pulp boxer who learns the rules of Muay Thai, but also a deep internal reach to deliver a complex, defiantly self-sabotaging character with depth of understanding.
80

Variety by Guy Lodge

At once exhausting and astonishing, this no-holds-barred adaptation of British junkie-turned-pugilist Billy Moore’s Thai prison memoir is a big, bleeding feat of extreme cinema, given elevating human dimension by rising star Joe Cole’s ferociously physical lead performance.
80

The Hollywood Reporter by Leslie Felperin

Prayer dwells with almost swooning rapture on the bodies of young men as they mete out brutal violence on one another, and features a cast composed mostly of unknowns, impressively coached in order to deliver arresting turns onscreen.
58

The A.V. Club by Mike D'Angelo

Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire (Johnny Mad Dog) makes some audacious, impressionistic choices, focusing on the nexus of sensual and brutal, but this is the rare true story that really could have used some creative embellishment.
63

Movie Nation by Roger Moore

It’s not a reinvention of the genre, but it is a fairly engrossing variation on a theme. And that’s in large part due to the violence — sexual and otherwise — it recreates.
60

The Guardian by Xan Brooks

No one would accuse it of breaking new ground, or finding fascinating new paths across its well-worn prison yard. But Sauvaire’s drama is lean and trim and unwavering in its task.

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