SIX ROUNDS is an exquisitely realized inner monologue. A perfect distillation of character and mood expressed in silence and in shouts; of emotion visualized through quick cuts and slow motion into a tone poem of stark eloquence with nary a flaw in its running time. Told is six episodes, it explores the aftermath of the 2011 London riots that broke out after an unarmed black man was shot by a police officer. The riots resulted in five deaths, and, indirectly, the quandary in which Dan (Adam J Bernard), a black man with aspirations of leaving a troubled past behind, finds himself.
Dan, as we will learn, is a victim of his place and of his time in this trenchant look at race, class, and free will in modern Britain. A retired boxer who left the ring undefeated, he has moved on from beating people up to being patronized by well-meaning suburban housewives in his new career of selling natural gas deals door-to-door. On a visit to his old neighborhood, he learns that a white friend, Chris (Santino Zicchi), has, like so many of his mates, helped himself to a 100% discount during the riots, only instead of limiting himself to sneakers, he also helped himself to a stash of drugs. The rightful owner wants Chris dead, and only by returning to the ring can Dan save Chris’ life. But it also means losing the bout, and losing both his perfect record and his true love, Mermaid (Phoebe Torrance), a white woman that Dan can’t help but see as much through his mind’s eye as how she really is.
The storytelling is elliptical, relying on context rather than exposition. thus allowing us to feel the same off-kilter experience of life that Dan does. Scenes shift from Dan in the ring, filmed and edited with that ci-mentioned stunning blend of quick-cuts and slow motion, to the recognizable present, where he encounters a crime boss with a counter-intuitively philosophical outlook, casual domestic violence, and an out-of-body experience of seeing stars that takes a metaphysical approach. It all blends seamlessly with Dan’s confessionals, where he relives a lifetime of emotional baggage, and anchored by an explosive performance by Bernard that, with a few words and a wealth of expressions, tells stories too profound for mere words. The use of black-and-white underscores the emotional impact of each moment, with the sudden interludes of saturated color shocking us out of the moment while effectively plunging us into another and then back again.
SIX ROUNDS is an intense experience that is as troubling as the culture it depicts with such savage grace and beauty. Melding isolation with interconnectedness, it takes on that culture with a ferocious honesty, and a insistent sense of compassion.