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CINDERELLA MAN (***˝)

Movie Review by:
Larry "Bocepheus" Evans
Directed by:
Ron Howard
Written by:
Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman
Starring:
Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti,
Running time:
144 minutes
Released:
0
6/03/05
Rated PG-13 for intense boxing violence and some language.
"Having seen a fair amount of film fights in my time this ranks amongst the all time bests."
My cohort JR wasn’t very impressed by the latest collaboration of Ron Howard and Russell Crowe but I am. In spite of its current box office failure, this is a pretty good film. JR retold the story so I’ll just say the film is about the fall and rebirth of Jim Braddock during the time of the Great Depression. Braddock was an up and comer from New Jersey with a dutiful wife and three kids who fell on hard times when the stock market bottomed out. He fought hurt and at a point when he needed to fight to make money for his family he has a poor showing in front of the head of the Boxing Commission (wonderfully played by Animal House’s Bruce McGill) and loses his license. Without a license he was forced to work on the docks as a ‘day laborer’, which meant that he and thirty other guys would stand out in front of a fence and hope he got picked. We see this proud man living off of one piece of fried bologna and watered down milk. We see Braddock at the aid office and walking thru a New York that changes from tenement to luxury for a scene that has him begging from the promoters who once used him. The scene is one of the most powerful things you can see because it shows us how bad his life truly is.

Braddock’s fortunes change by way of a fluke. A fighter drops out of a championship set up bout and a replacement is needed. His manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) gets his a nice payoff and a great send off in his ‘last fight’ but things written on paper don’t always happen and Braddock wins the fight. This starts him on a run that leads us to a title shot with the current champ, Max Baer (Craig Bierko). Baer was in his time the Mike Tyson of the era. He lived hard and killed two men in the ring. Bierko gives us an interesting performance that shows us that Baer could go from funny guy to stone killer in an instant. With a semi-Shemp hairdo and a cockeyed smile you can’t take your eyes off him whenever he shows up. The final fight is built up as an event that everyone in New York (and probably the world) was following on his or her radios. Having seen a fair amount of film fights in my time this ranks amongst the all time bests.

Howard is generally thought of as a "by the numbers" type of director but here as he showed in “A Beautiful Mind” he has an eye for great cinematography. There are some special cinema moves in this film that show without going into major detail that times have changed. Howard also does the Oliver Stone thing by changing film stocks when going into flashback as well as shooting the fight scenes in the same style as James Wong Howe in the classic “Body and Soul”. The performances are uniformly excellent with standout performances from Giamatti, Bierko, McGill, Nicholas Campbell and even Paddy Constantine in a fictional character invented just show us another side of the depression. Renee Zellweger is just okay if you ask me but Crowe is downright amazing. Crowe can play ‘big’ when he needs to but here there are moments where he shows more by just a quick reaction than overselling it. The boxing scenes are stunning and there are times where you forget you are watching a movie and cheer like you were watching a real fight. Some are speculating that the film isn’t doing well since Crowe threw a phone but the main problem here is that this is not a summer film. If the film came out later in the year I believe it would have been a hit and I believe it will do very well on DVD.
 

CINDERELLA MAN © 2005 Universal Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2009 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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