Don't be fooled by the Best Actor and Best Film awards from the Boston Film Festival, 'Strength and Honour' is an overly sentimental and cliché-ridden film, complete with dodgy Irish accents.
The film marks the directorial debut of Irish scriptwriter Mark Mahon. Mahon wrote the script some time ago but was struggling to find a director so decided to take it on himself.
Set in Mahon's native Cork, the film tells the story of Sean Kelleher (Madsen), a mechanic forced to break a promise to his dying wife so that he can provide the medical attention his son (Whelton) needs.
Already saddled with crippling debts from his wife's healthcare costs, Sean must take drastic measures if he is to meet the €250,000 price tag for a life-saving operation for his son, who has inherited his mother's heart condition.
After killing his brother-in-law in the ring, Sean must go back on his word never to fight again following the failure of the insurance company to honour his wife's policy.
The only trouble is that to enter the King Puck boxing competition you need to be a Traveller. Sean sells his home to pay off his debts, moves into a Traveller encampment and pays the €10,000 competition entry fee.
As he trains with former mentor Denis O'Leary (Chamberlain) for his return to the game, Sean is joined by Chaser McGrath (Rawley), a young Traveller keen to make his mark in the competition to impress his own father, and the two strike up a father-son relationship.
Jones stars as the fearsome Smasher O'Driscoll, King of the Travellers or King Puck, the man Sean must ultimately defeat if he is to take home the convenient winner's prize of €250,000.
Madsen's role is a world away from those he has become famous for such as 'Mr Blonde' in 'Reservoir Dogs'. This film offers him a chance to play a good guy, but he doesn't pull it off.
To make matters worse, his accent and background are confusing. While Jones' accent is not as muddled as Madsen's, it is vaguely reminiscent of Victor McLaglen's in 'The Quiet Man'.
The film is not a boxing movie; rather boxing is used as a vehicle for telling the story of a father's love for his son. However, the film's best moments are its fight scenes, which capture the chaos and brutality of bare-knuckling boxing.
A fine cast, notably Rawley and Fitzpatrick as Mammy, ably support the lead characters. Mahon also used Travellers as extras in the film and was able to call upon the experience of Furey (playing the character Chosky Boss), which should help to give an accurate portrayal of life on the road.
The first half of the film drags as Mahon tries to tie up the loose ends to get the lead character into his down-on-his-luck position. It only picks up with the start of the King Puck competition and the development of Sean and Chaser's friendship.
An endearing and heartwarming ending fails to redress the flaws of 'Strength and Honour' and there are many other films on release that are more deserving of your time.