Walk Like a Panther
The 1960s saw the birth of a sporting phenomenon like no other with the rise of televised British Wrestling. Families were glued to their magic boxes come four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, with anticipation endlessly rising as the nation’s favourite stars, including the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, took to the ring to fight it out for the championship belt. Sadly, by the turn of the 1990s, the British Wrestling scene had fallen to its knees thanks to the increased growth and funding of the American WWF. Following the death of an industry, Walk Like a Panther brings a tale of wrestling rejuvenation to screens once again, with old dreamers brushing off their Lycra and leotards once more.
Set in West Yorkshire, the latest British feature from Dan Cadan tells the story of Mark Bolton (Stephen Graham), a pub landlord and son of former professional wrestler Trevor “Bulldog” Bolton (Dave Johns). Having grown up immersed in the wrestling frenzy of the 1980s, Mark had always dreamed of emulating the success of his father and his group The Panthers, but following the decline of the sport he has simply been left to dream. That is until an impromptu fight in his pub, The Half Nelson, goes viral online and sparks a resurgence in demand to see the fallen stars back in the ring. Meanwhile, little to Mark’s knowledge, the fate of The Half Nelson has fallen into the hands of a business tycoon and faces closure. In a hope to save the pub, the former fighting heroes reunite for a fundraising wrestling spectacle. But will it be enough?
Although bearing a plot as thick as a string, Walk Like a Panther encapsulates the core tenets of a British comedy picture. Think of a cross between The Full Monty and Rocky and viewers may be half way towards grasping the essence of what the movie is about. Full of quick quips that are almost cut too short, this is a heartfelt attempt at an entertaining family feature film, incorporating some Northern values and Brit-culture humour that, whilst provoking some out-loud chuckles, ultimately falls short. An 80s/modern toe-tapping soundtrack makes for an enjoyable auditory experience, but is unfortunately coupled with unexpected sound effects that subtract from the seriousness of the onscreen dialect.
However, credit where credit is due, Stephen Graham and Dave Johns clearly put an immense amount of time and effort into perfecting their father/son relationship, with some incredibly touching scenes midway through the second act. This does of course come unsurprisingly, since the two men have vast previous history working on big budget pictures and series that have been nominated for major awards. But it does appear that a large amount of the film’s weight is carried by the two actors.
Walk Like a Panther is released in select cinemas on 9th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Walk Like a Panther here: