A new challenge for the tireless fighter of French cinema. An intense actor with a wide range of performances to his name, Mathieu Kassovitz seemingly never sought to embody characters that would make him look like a perfect guy. What has been heroic about his roles above all is the way he fully gives himself to them, with the kind of commitment that is bound to galvanize filmmakers.
Samuel Jouy, an actor himself, surely recognized this particular dedication as an ideal quality to embody in his first feature film, Sparring, a boxer reaching the end of his career with a record tarnished by a majority of defeats in the ring.
The worn-out sportsman is in no way close to calling himself unfortunate with a lovely, supportive wife (Olivia Merilahti of The Dø) and children who look at him as the champion he was once meant to be. When he is offered a lucrative job as the sparring partner – understood as “human punching-ball” – of a rising boxing star, he promises to his family that the opportunity is worth the bruises. And indeed, as his story unfolds around complex relations that go beyond antagonism or certitude, victories are not decided by the sole referees.
You know a film is well cast when an actor discovers a new vocation through his interpretation, going well beyond the principles of method acting. Kassovitz has announced that he was turning to boxing as a priority and fought his first official match in June this year. Better still, the actor-turned-boxer’s effort was encouraged by boxer-turned-actor Souleymane M’Baye, his partner in Sparring and a former WBA lightweight champion. A specialist in wins by knockout in real life, the athlete is a natural before the camera. And the two men, equally driven by curiosity and an aversion for comfort zones, are a great match.