Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Boxer

A Movie Review

With yesterday being Boxing Day, I thought it only appropriate that I watch the gift my brother and sister-in-law gave me for Christmas, a DVD of Ron Howards film Cinderella Man. The failure of this movie at the box-office has been lamented by Critics as on of the great cinema mysteries of the year 2005, especially given its reteaming of the popular duo of director Howard and star Russell Crowe, who won Academy Awards several years ago for another bio-pic, the rather impressive A Beautiful Mind. This movie also features the unique and talented Renee Zellweger, the always great & currently in-vogue Paul Giamatti, strong character players Bruce McGill & Paddy Considine, and Ron's weird-looking little brother Clint.

The movie is the story of James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe), a once promising contender in the world of boxing, who after being severely beaten in a 1929 bout finds his career slipping quickly downhill. By 1933 Jim has become such a weak and ineffectual player (0wing largely to his dependence of his strong right hand, which is broken several times throughout the course of his career), that he has his boxing license revoked. Having lost almost all of his once sizable wealth in stock market crash of 29', the once famous boxer is forced to work as a long-shorman in his native New Jersey whenever he can get a days labor. His debts mounting beyond control eventually the power and heat is cut from the small apartment where he lives with his wife and three children. When his wife Mae (Renee Zellweger), farmers the kids off to various relatives so that they can be warm, the 'self-sufficient' minded Jim reluctently goes on government releaf, as well as begs from friends enough money to turn the gas back on so the children can come home.

In the midst of all this gloom Jims one-time agent and good friend Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) comes with the offer of one last (league approved) fight that could net them at least $250. It seems that a professional player had backed out of a Madison Square Garden match at the last minute and they needed someone they could get on short notice. Fuelled by his own desperate determination and a bowel of corned-beef hash, Jim wins the fight and begins a streak of victories that propel him to the world championships and inspires a downcast nation with hope in much the same way as a did a certain horse.

The story of Cinderella Man is a story about second chances, how a desperate man motivated by the need to provide for his own family over-comes lost confidence to become a champion. This is much more then just a boxing story because Jim Braddock was not just a hero in the ring, but a regular saint in his daily life. At one point in the movie Jims son Jay steals a salami from a local butcher to help feed his starving family, calmly and with dignity James takes his son back to the butchers to return the meat and gives him a heart-felt lecture that no matter what happens it is wrong to steal. James Braddock encapsulates in one man a now much dissipated sense of right and wrong and personal dignity, that we so warmly associate with the generations that suffered through both the great depression and the second world war.


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