It was 1933. America was in the middle
of the great depression. 15 million people were unemployed, people were starving, and whole families were living homeless
in New York’s Central Park.
It was during this period that a bloke
who hit people for a living captured the heart of the nation. Ex boxer James Braddock was offered a one time fight. He was
not expected to win. He was just ‘meat’. He was meant to go down in the first round. What happened next has been
hailed as one of the most amazing stories in sporting history.
Although a rags to riches story, director
Ron Howard resists the temptation to sink into the Rockyesque quagmire of the slow mo and inspirational music. Although there
was the obligatory training montage, its impact somewhat dampened by my mental accompaniment of the ‘We Need a Montage’
song from Team America, Howard avoids too many boxing clichés.
The fight scenes are the best bits of the
film. I never considered myself particularly blood thirsty, but by the end of the film was wiggling in my seat muttering ‘hit
him you git’ and making little punchy twitching movements with my fists. I knew I was being manipulated, but it was
so good I didn’t mind.
Although looking and sounding very like
Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe showed why we should put up with the odd telephone hurtling incident: regardless of that boy’s
attitude to modern telecommunications, he sure can act. I hate boxing and I loathe Russell Crowe, but Ron Howard’s skillful
direction had me on the edge of my seat cheering Rus on. He was very likeable and you can just tell that the real James Braddock
was one of those Ray Martin all round top blokes. Even non boxing people can grasp the desperation that lied behind Braddock’s
amazing courage in going up against younger and stronger opponents.
But it was Paul Giamatti, with an endearing
mix of humour and credibility, who carried the film for me. God bless America for its wonderful supporting actors.
Renee Zellweger plays Russell’s overly
nauseating cardboard wife. She tries, but clearly this is a boy movie about boys hitting each other and doing manly boy stuff
and you can tell Howard didn’t give her enough direction. This is a shame, as the overly long sappy scenes and Howard’s
disregard of the female characters were the only things holding this film back from being a terribly scary example of how
to make a very effective movie.
But will someone please tell Rene to stop
making that Bridget Jones ‘O’ face. It just kept making me giggle and think about Colin Firth.