It’s Not About The Punch

by Paul Astin | Dec 14, 2016
Rocky

Rocky (1976)   Move over Southpaw, this is the only movie about a left-handed boxer that we will ever need. It has it all, beating dead animals in the meat locker, two turtles named Cuff and Link, a romance with a woman with glasses who works in a pet store, a cranky boxing coach, and don’t forget those raw eggs. A brilliant score by Bill Conti compels you to get off the couch and start running up stairs. The ending is predictable, but we just don’t care. The rest of the titles in the franchise will never measure up to that one moment, Rocky shouting, “Adrian, Adrian.”
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Girlfight

Girlfight (2001) Michelle Rodriguez plays the toughest fighter in her high school, not in a good way. Then she walks into a boxing gym. The toughest girl in school finds discipline and a place to channel her anger with a coach that sees her potential. 
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CinderellaManCinderella Man (2005) Russell Crowe plays a James J. Braddock. His career is boxing and things are going well until bad investments, the Great Depression, and a broken hand lands Braddock and his family in poverty. The family is so poor that they are facing sending their children to relatives that can at least feed them when his local manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) finds a one-time fill-in fight.   Based on a true story (the library has the biography in both print and audio editions), Cinderella Man embraces the values of working hard, never giving up, and giving back. Best scene: Braddock standing in the welfare line to give back the money that he has taken from the government during the lean times.
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MillionDollarBaby Million Dollar Baby (2004) Clint Eastwood directs Hillary Swank in an Oscar winning performance of a woman boxer looking for a coach. Eastwood puts her off with “I don’t train girls.” She comes every day, trains every day, and slowly wears him down. Maggie Fitzgerald has dreams and her reluctant coach becomes her biggest fan. Her dreams are the same as male boxers, to pull themselves out of poverty and find fame. She’s in for the long haul despite the risk. The film won the Academy Award for best picture and best direction.
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FighterThe Fighter (2010) “Irish” Micky Ward played by Mark Wahlberg is a boxer running out of time. He has been managed by his mother (Melissa Leo) and trained by his brother Dicky Eklund. Dicky was a contender and according to mom, he still is in spite of his drug addiction and irrational behavior. At its core The Fighter is a family drama, and what a family. Christian Bale won an Academy Award for his performance as Dicky. The family dynamics would keep you riveted to the screen, even if there were no boxing scenes to watch. Micky has seven sisters. Their scenes are a film within a film. Amy Adams is so tough that you’ll forget she was in Enchanted.
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RequiemForAHeavyweightRequiem for a Heavyweight (1962) There are two versions available at the library of this teleplay by the famous Rod Sterling. The original teleplay stars Jack Palance. It is included in a collection entitled The Golden Age of Television. The film version stars Anthony Quinn. The story revolves around the end of boxer’s career and the damage that can be done by a young boxer. In the film the young boxer is played by Mohammed Ali. Mountain Rivera is urged to give up boxing. His life depends on it. His sleazy manager wants him to become a wrestler in order to help him pay a gambling debt, a humiliating and dangerous end to his sports career. Who does he owe and what should he do?
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RagingBullRaging Bull (1980) Considered by some as not only the best boxing movie, but also the best sports movie ever made. Directed brilliantly by Martin Scorsese, but from this reviewer’s point of view, you have to love boxing and the dark side of being in a sport where success means inflicting and receiving a lot of pain to enjoy this film. For Jake La Motta played by Robert De Niro, the violence extends beyond the ring and into his family and social life. The curtain doesn’t close at the moment of success and affirmation. Watch this movie when it is really about the punch.
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