Like It Is [1998]

Like It Is is much like watching a train wreck--the very idea of it is repellent and yet you perversely can't avert your eyes. While its urban grittiness and sooty veneer entranced some critics who mistook its violent, netherworld neorealism for art, Like It Is offers little in the way of redemption, positive gay imaging, or even particularly good narrative. Paul Oremland directed this venture about a young, gay Blackpool tough named Craig (Steve Bell) who bare-knuckle boxes for money. He ultimately moves to London in search of a better life and falls in with the trendy London gay club scene, meeting and falling for a handsome record producer named Matt (Ian Rose) and his wealthy boss (played by the Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey). The better life is quickly tainted by disillusion and misery, much as is the viewing experience. Steve Bell is, in real life, a featherweight boxing champion in Britain and therefore brings an urgent and raw vitality to the lead, but the characters as a whole are either irritating or unsympathetic, and it's ultimately difficult to find anyone to care for, or a story worth empathizing with. --Paula Nechak

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