Boxing movies tend to be tougher to work than other sports movies. Boxing matches tend to be long and drawn out, there’s a lot of back and forth, and it’s a lot of intensity all the time. The average viewer will eventually lose interest in watching two actors fake pummel each other. There is also the issue of scoring. In many sports, scoring makes sense. Points are assigned to explainable acts; a run in baseball, a point in hockey, even judged sports like figure skating can be understood. But in boxing, points are given for hits, knock downs, and penalties, and even I have a difficult time scoring a match even when I know what to look for.
Add to all that the fact that many boxing matches are decided not by knockouts but by scoring, it makes pulling off a boxing movie tough. And if the movie is a true story, where you lack the Hollywood ability to knock a guy out to avoid the issues I mentioned, entertainment is nearly impossible. These facts simply broaden the accomplishment that is “Cinderella Man.”
This movie is an adaptation of the life of James Braddock, a depression era boxer who went from a washed up fighter who had to go on public assistance to world champion. The story takes place during the depression of the 1930’s. We get to see the effects of the depression straight up, in a very accurate way.
This movie also accomplishes something else that is very hard to do, and that is to keep the interest of an audience that already knows the plot. Stories about comefrombehindunderdogsthatwinbig are not new at all. From the outset, we know that Braddock will win, yet win he does there is still exaltation left for this 75 year old story.
Ron Howard does a superb job directing this movie, and gets great performances out of everyone in the cast. Zellweger is very strong as the wife of Jimmy Braddock, but her performance has been hyped a little too much. Russell Crowe is surprisingly good. There are plenty of other great performances, including my favorite performance in the entire film, Chuck Shamata playing Father Rorick, the Braddock family priest and former sparring partner of Braddock’s. The scenes involving Shamata, who is an award winning actor in Canada, never fail to provide some comedic relief during some of the most intense fighting scenes in the movie. This helps the viewer not overdose of brute violence.
Not that this film doesn’t have brute violence. The boxing scenes in this movie are believable and impressive. The film does spend a lot of time on these scenes though, which should be expected. The cinematography is excellent, and this film looks good.
Definitely see this film, it is not just for boxing enthusiasts.