36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
You can have Rocky, I'll take Cinderella Man.
, August 19, 2005
This review is from: Cinderella Man (Widescreen Collector's Edition) (DVD)
If you see only one movie this year, see Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger, directed by Ron Howard. You will be glad you did. Well-written, acted and directed, it will deserve any laurels it takes this coming award season. This review contains "spoilers". The movie is based on a real life--knowing how the story ends does not in any way detract from one's appreciation of it.
Cinderella Man is the story of James J. Braddock, a boxer in the 1930s who after suffering injury and a losing streak, came back to win the heavy-weight Championship. It is a mesmerizing story with indelible imagery of The Great Depression. The blood and violent behavior was appropriate to the story-confined as it was to the boxing ring.
Ron Howard makes movies about real people and real events-Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, for instance. He sometimes glosses over, or skips entirely, unpleasant or unsavory events in the lives he translates to the visual medium. Nothing I have read or heard indicates that Jim Braddock was not the fine, fair, good man that we see onscreen. An example: After returning to the ring, Braddock (portrayed by Russell Crowe with jug ears) returned all the money he had drawn the past couple of years to the Relief Office. Not that you could do that today-there's no form for it. Nor would modern man see the reason for it.
The movie begins with the young Braddock, winning every fight, never being knocked out, providing a comfortable life for his wife and children. He was a family man, a virtuous man who loved and took care of his family. Then comes his family's grim financial decline in the early 1930s, after he was hurt in the ring, was out of work and on Relief-much to his shame. His little family lived in a succession of small, dark, cold rooms and his wife took in sewing. It ends with his victory over Max Baer in 1935.
At the depth of the Depression a last-minute cancellation afforded Braddock the chance to fight John "Corn" Griffin-a chance to earn a few dollars he so sorely needed. Braddock's third round KO amazed everyone. His subsequent defeat of Art Lasky set him up for the championship fight with Max Baer. When asked in an interview just what gave him his renewed drive, he replied that he knew what he was fighting for.
"What are you fighting for?" the reporter asked.
"Milk", said Braddock.
Max Baer was portrayed as a high-living mean son-of-a-bitch who fought dirty when he could. He was tall and his longer reach and powerful right mercilessly took out his opponents. He had killed two men in the ring-Jim Braddock looked like being the third. (Max Baer's son, Buddy Baer of "Beverly Hillbillies" fame, takes exception to this portrayal. No one denies two men died fighting Baer.)
Braddock and his manager studied films of Baer's fights. They looked for ways to avoid that murderous right. Braddock went the full fifteen rounds with Baer, in spite of Baer's low blows. He got in some good hits of his own and left Baer a bloody and disappointed man when the unanimous decision made Braddock Champion.
Braddock lost the title to Joe Lewis in 1937, and after defeating Tommy Farr in 1938 he retired from the ring. Braddock used his earnings to buy a family home and invest in business he knew: loading dock machinery. He lived happily ever after.
(This review is based on the theatrical release.)
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