Cinderella Man (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/09/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 144 mins

It’s Seabiscuit with fists. Enjoyable, well-made, heartwarming Best Picture fodder that overcomes its achingly predictable story thanks to Oscar-worthy performances from Crowe and Giamatti.

The Background
A based-on-a-true story drama starring Russell Crowe? Scripted by Akiva Goldsman and directed by Ron Howard? Just like A Beautiful Mind? Then it must be awards season. Sure enough, Ron Howard’s latest Oscar-baiter takes the plot of Seabiscuit (plucky sports star comes to represent the hope of the common man in Depression-era America) and grafts it onto the story of boxer Jim Braddock, who staged an astonishing comeback in the early 1930s.

The Story
The plotting is about as by-the-numbers as you would expect from writer Akiva Goldsman, whose crimes against screenwriting include both Batman & Robin and Batman Forever. Russell Crowe plays Jim Braddock, a successful boxer whose career comes to an abrupt end thanks to a persistent injury, just as America is plunged into Depression. Struggling to support his wife, Mae (Renee Zellweger) and three kids, Braddock takes a job on the docks, where he befriends a political activist, played by Paddy Considine.

However, when Braddock’s former manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) offers him a one-time boxing comeback, Braddock wins the fight against incredible odds. Braddock then finds himself on an astonishing comeback trail, leading all the way to a title bout against the fearsome Max Baer (Craig Bierko).

The Bad
Braddock’s story is genuinely impressive – he was dubbed The Cinderella Man by no less a writer than Damon Runyon. However, one of the problems of the film is that, despite the truth in the story, it conforms to just about every boxing movie cliché you can think of, from the larger-than-life villainy of Braddock’s opponents to the pressure to take a dive and the sentimental locker room speeches. Mae’s You’ll always be the champion of my heart! is especially grating and bound to raise a few unintentional laughs.

The Good
Fortunately, the performances are good enough to overcome the familiarity of the writing. Crowe is simply terrific. In all the unfortunate press about his offscreen antics, it’s easy to forget just how great an actor he can be. He’s the heart and soul of Cinderella Man - scrappy, determined and good-hearted. This is most in evidence in one of the film’s best (and hopefully accurate) scenes, when he holds a press conference in order to give back his welfare handout after winning a big boxing purse.

Zellweger almost overdoes it with the puffy-faced grimacing routine, but there’s strong support from Paul Giamatti. Giamatti's scenes with Crowe are the highlights of the film.

The Conclusion
In short, if you’re a sucker for a real-life, feel good sports movie, then Cinderella Man has your name written all over it. It may be cliched and overly sentimental, but it delivers the requisite punch where it counts. Expect to see the film join both Crowe and Giamatti in the ring come Oscar time. Worth seeing.

Film Trailer

Cinderella Man (12A)
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Content updated: 19/04/2019 01:16

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