Redemption is such a thing in which so many people are searching for in their problematic and unsettled lives. Here we find our main character, Bud (Corey Stoll), a former boxing champion searching through his past and future to make ends meet, survive, and adapt to his unsteady situation. Led by great performances across the board, Noah Buschel’s latest feature Glass Chin, which he penned and directed, is a deliberated real life human drama that insights us with the despondent and painful feeling of a struggling has been, impacted with crime overtones which helps round out and flavor the film into the effectively realized crime drama that it is.
The film opens with a classic boxing movie running scene, with our main character Bud Gordon suited in sweats and a sweatshirt running through the night lights of the city, setting the noirish and melancholy tone for the rest of the film. Bud Gordon is convincingly characterized by Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Ant-Man), who proves that he has the chops to lead a film, and do it recognizably well. We’re dropped right into the lives of Bud and his quick witted and philosophical girlfriend Ellen (Marin Ireland), who are living in a shabby beat down apartment pondering what could be, and what’s already been done. Buschel’s film is most successful and at its most believable when showing us the personal and intimate moments and interactions between Bud and Ellen, feeling as if we are in the room with these two struggling lovers. Buschel’s ability to capture these tender and connective moments indefinitely builds for a more realistic and touching experience for the audience.
Bud is an erstwhile gloried boxer, who took a jab that brings him to the floor, physically and emotionally. Not only is he feeling the flop as a boxer, but as a restaurateur as well. His soon desperation brings him directly in the line of the astutely sharp, smooth talking, but danger inflicting J.J. Cook, an artsy restauranteur and crime mogul who will do anything to have the power of owning people. He promises Bud the reprisal of his failed restaurant, giving a now gullible and vulnerable Bud a glimpse of hope to redeem himself in some form or another. J.J. Cook is played brilliantly by the great Billy Crudup, giving us such a restrained and polished but also eerie, obsessive, and pitiless miscreant of a character, reminding us how talented and skillful he truly is. Bud is soon tagging naively alongside a friend of J.J.’s who is uniquely styled, peculiar, and who also seems to take care of the dirty work for Cook. Without spoiling, Bud is helping train an up and coming boxer who has high expectations to meet, and is being applauded as the next champion. But with J.J. involved, things are up in the air, certainly still under his control. Will Bud’s redemption come with ease, or slip farther away from his grasp?
We’re not given much backstory or development detail in these characters, besides mentions of Bud’s previous glory, but that doesn’t take away from the sentiment we feel for our main character and what he’s going through. The theme of redemption is very common, but it’s a topic that doesn’t grow tired because it’s invariably relatable, with Buschel playing this card smartly and to his characters benefit instead of tediously and obnoxiously. I loved Buschel’s use of long takes, close ups (particularly a scene in which Crudup and Stoll sit across from each other at the restaurant and have an acting match of their own, which steers to Crudup leaving us with a creepy and menacing smirk), and mainly his shots simplicity and elegance, which really help a humane story and film like this from becoming overshadowed or pushed to side in favor of style or flashiness.
The performances here are executed well, played committedly and engrossingly by the actors involved. Corey Stoll, who gave an Oscar nominee worthy performance in Midnight in Paris, is on a roll, proving once again he is immensely adept at what he does. Billy Crudup embodies his character he’s given and runs with it in an evocative, arresting, scene stealing performance. Just as prominent is, Yul Vazquez, who does notably terrific work here, as a flamboyant and flashy working pal of J.J. Cook’s. Marin Ireland plays Buds girlfriend, and her much enjoyed performance is very vital and valuable to the film because it adds that touch of realism and perception from a person who truly knows our main character.
This is a poignant, absorbing, and adroitly crafted film that effortlessly connects and envelops us in its story and characters as well as yielding justice and opulence to the genre of crime annexed with drama. I don’t suggest overlooking this in the coming film season, Buschel has constructed a knockout.