1929's economic depression served, among many things, for extraordinary brave people to literally fight for their lives. Boxing then became the one big shot for men to leave behind poverty. In a world where the self-made man of the American dream had been shattered and crushed to pieces, men tried to succeed quickly, to gain fame and recognition. What fighters were really fighting against was more than just the opponent inside the ring, they had to overcome the everyday difficulties and the family and personal issues that were torturing them.
Last month Jake Gyllenhaal's Southpaw was released and even if Jake's performance was strong, the plot of the story doesn't live to its own expectations. I found this to be to be the perfect excuse to revisit some of the most entertaining and powerful boxing movies recently made that will shake you until you're K.O.
And before you yell at me for not including any Rocky film or Raging Bull, I purposely did it because those are perhaps the number 1 and 2 in a list of boxing movies. The movies are listed in no particular order.
In 1999 Denzel Washington played the character of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer who was wrongly imprisoned by a triple murder and, despite all efforts made to release him, he was found guilty and spent many years in prison until a young boy read about his story and decidedly put hands to work in order to demonstrate his innocence. From there and throughout, the movie shows how Hurricane had to fight against something bigger than the seemingly irrefutable proofs that pointed him as the murderer. He needed to fight against a whole system corrupted and dominated by racism, for he was one of the countless victims of it.
This movie is about second chances and the will of man to rise. Cinderella Man is America making way for a new type of character: the myth athlete. Before 1929, the working man was the epitome of the American Dream. When finally the bubble collapsed a new kind of man would born. The athlete would reach the levels of deities.
Oscar winning actor Russell Crowe starts as every other man in the Depression: broken, beaten and disillusioned. However, James J. Braddock (Crowe's character) will have one last chance to reach glory and happiness. Motivated by his wife and baby he'll fight until the very last round, no matter what.
Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle are entertaining movies but David O. Russell fifth movie, The Fighter, is his most complete to date. Following the story of brothers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, the plot of The Fighter centers on the innumerable conflicts between those two brothers and how the drug addiction of Dicky almost destroys his brother's boxing career. Christian Bale won an Oscar for his interpretation in this movie. He totally eclipses Mark Wahlberg, who is supposed to be the central figure. What's also interesting about the story is the conflict and tension between Amy Adams and Melissa Leo's characters. The sick and interested love of a mother versus the love of a woman who really wants to help Micky. The Fighter might as well be a re-examination of what's behind the glory and success of boxing.
Sports films rarely fail to create a bond with the audience. The more the drama the more the empathy. I personally think that boxing movies can be incredibly moving but what attracts me the most about them is that sensation of hope and how the characters are disseminated so we can look deep into his fears and doubts and the way those may, or not, interfere with his outside world.