By Cora Quigley
‘The Man Inside’ tells the story of Clayton Murdoch, a young man trying to shield is family from the dangers of urban England while simultaneously trying to shield them from his own secretly violent nature. He appears to have a pretty peaceful life at first; he’s close with his family and is a talented boxer. His boxing coach has a hot gothic daughter to boot. However, the peace doesn’t last for long. How could it when your sister’s boyfriend gets stabbed by your best friend’s brother who is also in love with said sister and trying to force her into getting an abortion. Oh, and Clayton is also haunted by images of his horribly abusive father, who is now in prison.
It’s a pretty melodramatic synopsis, to be sure. It is also a very melodramatic film that is horrendously difficult to take seriously. The film works at first, Clayton is a likeable character and it is easy to believe in him and empathise with his hardships. However, shortly after the film begins the narrative spirals out of control and gets bogged down in cliché, emotionally manipulative plot points and horrendous dialogue. The character of the father is truly frightening in the beginning. It is easy to see why Clayton is so traumatised by his childhood and why he is so frightened of becoming like him. He is bloodthirsty and ultra-violent, forcing Clayton into situations that are wholly unsuitable for a child. Unfortunately his frightfulness soon becomes laughable when his character does not develop to more than that of a caricature of an amoral villain. The amount of power he seems to wield also seems unlikely, if he was so involved in gang culture and has so many cronies wandering around, why on earth would he be involved in something so petty as a convenience shop robbery, involving a his young son at that?
He isn’t the only character that is problematic. Clayton’s mother’s role in the film seems to revolve around her being ultra-religious and screaming at Jesus in dimly lit churches. His love interest, Alexia, who also has a dark past, serves as nothing more than his support in a moody, gothic sort of way. His siblings seem to be there to act stupid and to get tricked easily. Don’t even get me started on the use of forced abortion as a plot device. The only sensible character in the whole film is Clayton’s boxing coach, Gordon. He is the only person who notices just how affected Clayton is by his past experiences with his father and he is the only one who sees that Clayton badly needs professional help. He advises that Clayton and Alexia becoming a couple is a bad idea because of the fact that they both have such harrowing mental and emotional baggage. Of course, all the sense he makes is ignored. They get together, there’s lots of screaming and tears and in the end Clayton gets over all his demons without the need for any professional help. Just like real life!
The film tells a simple story, and actually does pose an interesting question; do the sins of the father become the sins of the son? It could have been an interesting film; instead what we are presented with is a cheesy soap opera that fails to capture any sort of gritty realism that it obviously aspires to. The film is so convoluted that it fails to convince.