Plot: Joey (Tony Luke, Jr.) has just been released from prison and after nearly a decade behind bars, he is a much different man. When he was locked up, he was a high level boxer with a bright future, but now he has gained a lot of weight and being an athlete isn’t likely in the cards. The accident that led to his incarceration weights heavily on his soul as well, so he has no interest in hurting people, even if it is just as part of a boxing match. He meets up with some old friends and gets work at the local gym he used to frequent, as he wants to be close to the sport, even if he doesn’t want to put on the gloves anymore. At home, he tries to make his life a positive one, but he is worn down by his neighbor’s actions. Through the walls, Joey can hear his neighbor beating his wife and son, so Joey tries to befriend the boy, to give him some hope. But when Joey is drawn into the various drama that happens in the real world, can he stick to the good path or will temptation lure him down the wrong roads?
Entertainment Value: The Nail blends together a number of familiar threads and while it might not be all that original, it is a solid movie that draws you in and has a lot of positive elements. In other words, stories don’t always need to be unique, as a well told narrative can still work well, even if it is one we’ve seen many times before. In the case of The Nail, we have the redemption arc that drives the entire movie and that’s a common premise, but it is well developed and performed. I should note that while this movie does involve boxing as a central element, this is not a sports movie or underdog narrative in that sense. Joey has moved on from his days in the ring, but we do see the boxing world often, just don’t expect a traditional sports movie in this case. The movie deals with serious, often dark topics including a brutal domestic violence scene that is tough to watch. So while The Nail aims to inspire, the path it takes is a rough, down to earth one, not an idealized take. I think this is a rock solid movie that hits the usual marks for this kind of picture, but stands out thanks to good performances and a more believable narrative. If you’re a fan of well crafted dramas, redemption stories, or the glorious Tony Danza, check it out.
I was impressed with the cast of The Nail, as there are several well known talents involved, though in mostly smaller roles. Tony Luke, Jr. might not be as famous in the movie world as some of his costars, but he handles the lead here well and gives us an interesting performance. I appreciate that Luke isn’t the usual leading man and I think that adds a layer of realism to the movie, he might be heavier than most actors in similar roles, but he really delivers on all fronts. Luke is able to convey the toughness the role requires, but also the softer moments and that is the real trick, as the emotional beats work here and that’s no small task. I was surprised how well Luke was able to hold his own against the higher profile, more experienced talent around him, just a terrific effort all around. Leo Rossi has another of the prominent parts and does well, lending some light humor to the movie at times. The cast here also includes Tony Danza, William Forsythe, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.