Punchy dialogue, sharply drawn characters and excellent performances fuel "Glass Chin," an intimate drama that's set in the boxing world but is about so much more. It's the kind of terrific little indie that not so long ago might have gone quite a few rounds on art-house screens before hitting other viewing platforms.
Bud Gordon (Corey Stoll) is a one-time boxing champ attempting to regain the limelight but now as a Manhattan restaurateur. To do so, he pairs with J.J. Cook (Billy Crudup), a rich, insidious businessman with whom Bud, we will learn, shares a dark past.
Although Bud believes J.J. will be on the up-and-up in helping him jump-start his eatery, J.J. sucks Bud into a criminal enterprise that sends the former fighter down the rabbit hole. As one observer here so aptly tells Bud, "If you try to go straight on a crooked road you'll only get flattened." But will he?
How the conflicted Bud navigates this tricky territory all while training the rising boxer Kid Sunshine (Malcolm Xavier) for a big match, keeping live-in girlfriend Ellen (Marin Ireland) at arm's-length, hooking up with ex-model Mae (Kelly Lynch) and eluding J.J. and his chatty henchman, Roberto (Yul Vazquez), proves a tense and absorbing juggling act.
Writer-director Noah Buschel's verbal and visual skills give "Glass Chin," so named for Bud's pugilistic weak spot, a distinct place in the often derivative world of neo-noir. That Buschel's gifted cast — Stoll, Ireland and Vazquez are first-rate, and Crudup is award-worthy — so deftly runs with the dynamite script adds immeasurable pleasure. Don't miss it.
"Glass Chin." No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.