April 24, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a B

If you don’t look too closely, TwentyFourSeven is a striking piece of work. The first feature of talented young British filmmaker Shane Meadows (his zingy, funny short about bottom-of-the-heap mobsters, Where’s the Money Ronnie?, was a hit at last year’s New York Film Festival), the title riffs on the round-the-clock hopelessness of disaffected young blokes ”getting s— 24-7,” as Darcy (Bob Hoskins), the boxing-club organizer at the center of things, puts it. It’s Darcy’s idea to give the lads in his unnamed Midlands town a place to pound out their aggressions, maybe instill some discipline and pride in their deadened selves. The project works for a time, and while it does, the boys begin to slough off their carapaces of sullenness. Tim (Danny Nussbaum) stands up to his bullying father. Fagash (Mat Hand) cleans up from drugs, etc.

Then it doesn’t work anymore, for reasons that — while laid out in an ostensibly straightforward manner — make absolutely no sense at all. The idea is that it just doesn’t, and it was madness to think it ever would, and everything once again goes wrong for these yoots.

Ah, the all-hours blues of economically depressed Englishmen! Oh, the dignity-through-marching-band-music pluck of Brassed Off, the self-esteem-through-stripping hilarity of The Full Monty! Meadows joins an already crowded party (discipline-through-a-good-left-hook pathos!), but he does so with such filmmaking bravado that TwentyFourSeven announces itself as something fresh and new when it really isn’t. Shot in rich black and white, hinting at influences as varied as The Seventh Seal, A Hard Day’s Night, and, most fashionably, Trainspotting, and boosted by an inventive soundtrack ranging from the blues to ”The Blue Danube Waltz,” the film varies vignettes from the boys’ regimen (training, joshing around, urinating in unison while on a camaraderie-building camping trip) with tender scenes from Darcy’s personal life (going dancing with his jolly aunt, nervously asking a shop woman for a date, writing in his journal). Hoskins’ performance, of lovely, soft-pedaled complexity, offsets the raw freshness of the mostly inexperienced younger cast. Everyone looks great. Goes nowhere. And charms us with free-floating misery.

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