PEAKY Blinders’ Joe Cole gives his all in a haunting and physically demanding role, portraying the brutality in two of Thailand’s most notorious jails.

A Prayer Before Dawn is a true story based on English boxer Billy Moore’s autobiography of his time behind bars which almost claimed his life.

Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s film focuses entirely on that deeply troubled period and Billy’s attempts to survive in a chaotic and cruel world of drugs, gang violence and hopelessness.

Because of this you barely get to know Billy’s backstory in a tale that is very light on character development.

But what the film lacks in story it makes up for in intensity and a powerful central performance by the BAFTA-nominated Cole.

Lost to his rage and addiction, A Prayer Before Dawn shows Billy’s hard fought journey to redemption when he is able to channel his energy into Muay Thai boxing.

Prison authorities allow him to take part in tournaments, giving him both better conditions and a shot at survival.

Sauvaire does not pull his punches in portraying the brutality and cruelty on both sides of the bars where prison guards and gang leaders rule by fear.

The filmmaker cleverly denies viewers subtitles for much of the Thai dialogue to add to the feeling of chaos and confusion that Cole felt as an Englishman far from home.

You feel like you are in that maelstrom with him.

To that end, Sauvaire also uses fast cuts that jump out of sequence during the fight scenes to give a sense of the intensity in the ring.

The whole film has a raw aesthetic and it will not be for everyone with only a few moments of reprieve from the misery and violence.

There are a couple of scenes that might leave you scratching your head as well.

Cole attacks prison staff and crosses paths with a violent inmate during a drug check with seemingly little consequence.

And A Prayer Before Dawn also could have done with a better editor standing over Sauvaire’s shoulder because the pacing begins to lag, particularly in the second half.

There are only so many times you can watch Billy training in the ring, shadow boxing or shouting at a punch bag.

But this hard-hitting film shows real promise for both Cole as a leading man and Sauvaire’s burgeoning career behind the camera.

RATING: 7/10