No not that one. While I am sure that I will get to the Rusty Crowe epic at some point rehashing hundreds of big budget supposed classics doesn’t interest me that much. Get online and search “swords and sandals and macho bravado” and you can read millions of pages about Gladiator – Roman style penned breathlessly by sweaty palmed fanboys.
Now wait while I dry my palms. Today I will be breathlessly penning a review of the non Ridley Scott Gladiator film about “boxers who act with macho bravado” also called Gladiator.
This particular film fits snugly into the outmatched guy who must battle against the odds category. The pinnacle of this genre – which will likely never be bested – is Rocky, but every couple of years another film comes out that seeks to capitalise on the strength of the formula and build its own niche nestled snugly on Sylvester Stallone’s bosom.
Rather than go into the usual rigmarole of “a guy walks into a boxing ring” let’s tick the boxes required to satisfy a formula film.
Tommy Riley (James Marsden in chiselled glory). A young white guy in a predominantly coloured community, Tommy doesn’t fit in and initially has no friends or allies. That’s a big check.
Tommy has no mother and his Dad is continually on the road or on the run depending on what you believe because of large gambling debts. Tommy must fend for himself and also cover the household costs, and ward off the heavies that the loan sharks send around to visit the old man. It seems Tommy is so dispassionate about anything and everything that he hasn’t had a facial expression in years.
A schoolmate and the daughter of Tommy’s employer, Tommy manages to catch the eye of the only white chick in his class.
?The Shonky Agent
Agent probably isn’t a great word, but Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia) discovers Tommy in a streetfight and does everything he can to ensure Tommy ends up in the ring fighting for him in the dodgy no-holds-barred fight nights. Pappy Jack desperately needs a pretty face to sell to the gamblers and spectators and sees Tommy as his “Great White Hope”.
The Friendly Corner-Man who just Hopes no-one gets Hurt
Ossie Davis is Noah, he teaches Tommy the tricks of the trade and makes sure he has an idea of what he is up against. Why he knowingly stays in an industry with so much corruption and backstabbing is a mystery. The important thing to remember is that he just hopes no-one gets hurt!
?The Buddy who gets Hurt
Initially Tommy is befriended by another young boxer, a well meaning and spirited kid named Romano. He and Tommy become friends and Tommy allows himself to care for Romano, which of course means that it is inevitable that Romano will get fucked up by…
?The Bad Guy – Tier #1
The first low level bad guy is a young thug, not averse to dirty tactics or getting even outside the ring. He puts Romano in hospital as a full time vegetable.
?The Buddy who Probably will cop it
Tommy doesn’t want to fight but does so out of desperation and necessity. Another young fighter named Lincoln though is also gifted and feels he needs boxing to get him and his family out of the ghetto. Of course they will be forced to fight each other at a time when it is least appropriate. Lincoln must fight Tommy to break into the big league, Tommy doesn’t want to fight Lincoln as he has a condition where a solid blow to the head might kill him… which necessitates.
?The REAL BIG BAD GUY
Brian Dennehy is Mr Horne, an ex-boxer turned promoter who runs the whole operation and plays the boxers like puppets o satisfy his own ends and desires. He buys Tommy’s Dad’s debt and forces him into the circuit. Of course the finale pits a wounded Tommy against a crafty, devious and dirty Horne man to man.
I think we can safely tick all the boxes above.
There are lots of montages, plenty of boxing set to cheesy motivational 80s songs, and plenty of cheap shots – and frankly – nut shots, to make the guys say “owwww”.
The finale is quite ludicrous but inevitable in these types of flicks, and good triumphs over evil as it tends to do in movies if not real life.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. As far as formula guy-against-the-odds movies goes this does the trick. It will never be known as a classic but is in the same vein as some of Van Damme’s best… for what that’s worth.