I want to hate Russell Crowe a lot of the time. Really, I do. Russell Crowe is the consummate bad dude. Even before he was throwing phones at the help at plush hotels, Crowe was allegedly helping Meg Ryan break up her marriage on the set of their movie. At the same time, his resume speaks for itself. Mystery, Alaska - The Insider - Gladiator - Proof of Life - A Beautiful Mind - and now Cinderella Man. With the exception of Master and Commander, which I found to be totally abysmal, Russell Crowe has had arguably the best run of movies of any actor since 1999. Also keep in mind that he had L.A. Confidential in 1997.
It is tough to hate a guy who is this talented on-screen. Cinderella Man is another Crowe movie that will do nothing but increase his profile as an actor. His portrayal of Jim Braddock will go down in history as one of the best boxing movies of all time. Crowe doesn't achieve this alone. Not by a long shot.
The movie is directed by Ron Howard, (which I didn't realize until I saw Clint Howard making a cameo as the referee of a match early on in the movie.) Ron Howard had his work cut out for him with this film because not only is it a boxing movie, but it takes place in the late 1920's and into the 1930's during The Great Depression. Howard had to capture the look and feel of the United States during one of its most downtrodden time periods, and also capture the desperation and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and emotion that occurred during that time. And Howard created a landscape that captured all the ugliness, while still making the shots beautiful and engaging.