Mark Duggan, an unarmed black man aged 29, was shot dead by police in Tottenham, north London on 4th August 2011, inciting six days of riots that swept England. The chaos, and the systemic injustices leading to it, still hang heavy over British law enforcement and inform conversations over racism and prejudice in the UK.

It’s ripe ground to interrogate through art, as author and photographer Marcus Flemmings attempts to in his second directorial feature Six Rounds – concerning retired amateur boxer Stally (Adam J. Bernard) who is torn between his mundanely wholesome domestic life and the lure of a world of violence and crime he left behind.

The spectre of the riots hangs heavy over Stally’s story, as Flemmings captures a London still reeling from their impact – Haider Zafar’s mostly greyscale cinematography elegantly evokes that monumental collective hangover. Depicted only in the briefest snippets of footage, or the odd dialogue exchange, the riots aren’t confronted directly, which is both to the film’s benefit and detriment.

As one of two framing devices, the other being incremental flash-forwards to Stally’s fateful return to the ring, the riots add nuance to what is a relatively clichéd gangster odyssey replete with stock characters like Daniel Johns’ quasi-philosophical crime boss or Santino Zicchi’s Chris – a muddle of hypermasculine arrogance, violence and fear that confusingly rolls a handful of stock types together. Phoebe Torrance, as Stally’s lover in his newfound domestic bliss, rarely moves beyond being the stereotypical concerned wife to the conflicted antihero into real nuance.

With a visceral central performance from Bernard, and the added dimension of racial tension in the UK, Six Rounds strives to stand out from the standard crime flick. But it raises fascinating points that it ultimately fails to interrogate. As such its use of the 2011 riots rings hollow.



CAST: Adam J. Bernard, Phoebe Torrance, Santino Zicchi, Daniel Johns

DIRECTOR: Marcus Flemmings

WRITER: Marcus Flemmings

SYNOPSIS: Among the 2011 London riots, a former boxer must choose between his past or a new future.