Without knowing about the conditions of its making, it plays like a rather conventional Eastern European art film. Baláz is shown in nearly every shot wearing his old jacket from the [Olympic] national team. While this speaks to Koza’s refusal to let go of his glory days, it also means that the character has “SLOVAKIA” emblazoned across his back. As he travels through Europe getting repeatedly pummelled and ripped off, it’s hard not to bristle under the rather obvious allegory.
Ostrochovsky and talented cinematographer Martin Kollar use a coolly artful style (long shots, static camera) that provides the audience with a bit of psychological distance and emotional freedom... There is bruising boxing footage aplenty, but Ostrochovsky and d.p. Kollar primarily focus on the space outside the ring; they avoid stereotyping their subjects and capture welcome moments of gentle humor.
A financially hard-up former boxer is driven to return to the ring to fund his girlfriend’s abortion, even as he sustains serious injuries, in this downbeat, impressively shot drama from Slovakian director Ivan Ostrochovsky. Non-professional actors add to the raw naturalism of the film, which stars Peter Balaz, a flyweight boxer who competed in the Olympics in the 90s. The breakthrough feature shows Ostrochovsky as one of central Europe’s strongest new filmmaking talents.