A recently closed Thai prison served as the set for A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN, based on the real-life experiences of a young Brit sentenced to prison in Thailand. Joe Cole plays Billy Moore, a heroine-addicted boxer who is arrested and sent to a notorious prison. In the midst of his hellish circumstances, Billy manages to join the prison’s Muay Thai team, providing him with an outlet for his frustration and a goal that helps him break through his addiction.
Director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire embraces hyper realism in A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN; not only is the film shot in an actual prison, Sauvaire enlisted a number of former inmates for the vast supporting cast. The film utilizes very few subtitles, perhaps to remind the audience that Billy himself speaks no Thai (the reason for his initial arrest is never made clear). And not a single gruesome incident is glazed over; this movie is brutally violent, and I’m not talking about the Muay Thai.
While some viewers will be turned off by the level of violence, I think everyone will agree that Sauvaire couldn’t have chosen a better leading man. Joe Cole goes all in, embracing both the physicality of the role and the ugliness of Billy’s addiction. Ultimately, that’s the triumph of the movie; while he grapples mightily with his fellow inmates and the pressure of an ensuing tournament, Billy’s real battle is against himself and the inner prison of his own making.
A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN is directed by Jean-Stephane Sauvaire (JOHNNY MAD DOG) and stars Joe Cole (“Peaky Blinders”). It’s based on the best-selling memoir by Billy Moore and is scheduled for U.S. release in August 2018.
Trigger warning: this film is graphically violent and includes portrayals of self-harm and gang rape. Please make an informed decision.