Stuck in a depressing telesales job, spending every night in the pub, and slowly drifting apart from his frustrated girlfriend, Simon (Cavan Clerkin) is a man in dire need of a change. “You’re happy to moan and groan instead of changing things. You’re pathetic,” his girlfriend Sarah (Polly Maberly) complains, which might be what prompts Simon to walk into the Atlantis gym on a whim one afternoon, paying up front for a six-month membership in the hope of getting fit.
“Fuck fit. You want to get big, and you want to get strong” is the no-nonsense advice he receives from Terry (Craig Fairbrass), the personal trainer who takes Simon under his wing and is as good as his word, transforming the tubby Simon into a burly, bearded beast. But Terry’s influence over his new friend won’t end there.
The song Mister, You’re a Better Man Than I over the opening credits sets the tone. Muscle is a film about the gap between the man Simon is and the man he thinks he should be, and Gerard Johnson’s third feature is a welcome change of pace after the stylish but hollow violence of Hyena (2014). Muscle is a twisted black comedy exploring questions of masculinity and insecurity, with echoes of Fight Club (1999) in the central relationship, as alpha-male Terry takes over and destroys Simon’s life and his sense of self.
Read the rest of my review on the BFI website