Glass Chin: Tribeca Review

One Zero Films
For all its impressive formal rigor, this modern-day noir fails to connect on an emotional level.

Corey Stoll plays a washed-up boxer who gets in over his head with criminal elements in Noah Buschel's stylistically audacious drama.

NEW YORK — Director-screenwriter Noah Buschel applies his distinctive measured style to his modern-day noir about a washed-up boxer who is in over his head due to his association with a loan-shark gangster for whom he works as a debt collector. But despite its superficial resemblance to Rocky, Glass Chin, receiving its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a decidedly chillier affair likely to keep audiences at arm’s length.

Corey Stoll (House of Cards) plays the central role of Bud Gordon, now living in the down-scale environs of New Jersey with his girlfriend, Ellen (Marin Ireland), after his boxing career sputtered when he crumbled during a title fight. Besides working for JJ (Billy Crudup), a crooked restaurant owner fond of wearing shiny silver suits and rhapsodizing about the glories of digital technology, the hard-luck ex-fighter trains a young, up-and-coming boxer.

The slow-moving plot swings into motion when one of JJ’s delinquent clients turns up dead shortly after a late-night visit from Bud and the gangster’s high-strung henchman Roberto (Yul Vazquez). Bud is threatened with being framed for the murder unless he arranges for his boxer to take a fall in the first round.

Although the film is redolent of any number of '40s- and '50s-era thrillers, Buschel is less interested in the plot mechanics than in conveying a despairing mood. Bud, whose relationship with his loyal girlfriend falls apart after he engages in a tryst with JJ’s sexy barmaid Mae (Kelly Lynch), is a flawed anti-hero who nonetheless remains sympathetic thanks to Stoll’s engaging performance.

As with previous efforts, such as the acclaimed The Missing Person (2009) and last year's Sparrow’s Dance, the filmmaker indulges in long takes, slow pacing and having the actors disconcertingly deliver long stretches of dialogue directly into the camera. The varied visual palette ranges from desaturated colors for the Manhattan sequences to warmer, browner tones for the ones set in New Jersey.

But despite its impressive formalistic rigor, the film fails to connect on an emotional level, with even the tragic ending failing to move us as it should. For all its admirable elements, from its quietly sly dark humor to the superb supporting performances — including Crudup’s supremely self-possessed gangster, Ireland’s warmly supportive girlfriend and David Johansen’s brief but vivid turn as a hapless debtor — Glass Chin ultimately fails to go the distance.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (ONEZERO FILMS)

Cast: Corey Stoll, Billy Crudup, Kelly Lynch, Yul Vazquez, Marin Ireland, Halley Feiffer, David Johansen, John Douglas Thompson

Director-screenwriter: Noah Buschel

Producers: Louise Runge, Samantha Housman, Susan A. Stover

Executive producer: Lois J. Drabkin

Director of photography: Ryan Samul

Editor: Jennifer Ruff

Production designer: Maya Sigel

Costume designer: Liz Vastola

Not rated, 87 minutes