Shadowboxer is one of those movies that will linger in the mind for a while after you’ve watched the last frame. On the surface, the story seems overly simplistic.
A couple of hitmen roll on an assignment and discover the woman they’re supposed to whack is pregnant. At the point of confrontation, the woman goes into labor and delivers the baby into the arms of one of the would-be assassins. It’s a foregone conclusion that they’re going to fight the psychotic crime boss who hired them in order to protect the new mother and her baby.
Except Director Lee Daniels and Writer William Lipz have a few wrinkles in the plot and twists they want to pull. Plus, they have a tendency to sketch in the characters and give the viewing audience plenty of time to figure out what makes those characters tick.
The hit team consists of an older white woman named Rose (played by Helen Mirren, star of the Prime Suspect series on BBC) and a young black man named Mikey played by Cuba Gooding, Jr (Jerry Maguire, What Dreams May Come, and Men of Honor). That might be enough of an interesting twist in the world of murder-for-hire, but then we find out that Rose was once partnered with Mikey’s dad.
In short order, we also learn that Rose has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is dying.
When Rose confronts Vickie (Vanessa Ferlito, Spider-Man 2, CSI: NY) and watches as the young woman’s water breaks, an epiphany sweeps over her. After all the people she’s killed, she wants this one to live. In that moment, Rose knows what she needs to do to make sure Mikey is taken care of after she dies.
Vickie wasn’t a good person even before she was marked for death by her crime boss husband Clayton, played to a sadistic T by Stephen Dorff (Blade, Cold Creek Manor, Alone In The Dark). She admits that she’d been a party girl who’d been turned on by the fact that her boyfriend beat up her dad after he cursed her out after finding her in a club.
Steven Dorff’s portrayal of Clayton borders on the insane. He doesn’t really care about anyone but himself, but he likes having control over his possessions. Vickie is one of those possessions. However, when he learns that one of his men might have slept with her, he brutally kills the guy in a scene that makes the viewer cringe.