Single page view By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Have we gone boxing-crazy?

When you consider those multiple Oscars for the wildly depressing "Million Dollar Baby"; the pop culture success of "The Contender"; the Corrales-Castillo tape making the rounds like Paris Hilton's first porn tape; excerpts of the script for "Rocky 6" in Sly magazine (that's right, Sly magazine); Gus Johnson's Emmy-caliber work on HDNet's "Lost Fights" (nobody has ever pimped a fighter with 30 losses better than Gus); Julio Cesar Chavez's record 236th comeback fight; and the city of Providence finally finding its pride in the pugilistic charm of Mr. Peter Manfredo Jr. ... I mean, at the rate we're going, Louis Gossett Jr. probably started training last week just in case somebody called him about "Diggstown 2."


Don't get used to this shot, because you don't get it often.

Leading this boxing resurgence is "Cinderella Man," which I originally thought was based on the life story of JM J. Bullock from "Too Close for Comfort." Actually, it tells the story of former heavyweight champ James Braddock, who rose to prominence right after the Great Depression and inspired the nation much like Seabiscuit. (In fact, if Braddock ever fought Seabiscuit, it would have torn the country apart.) "Cinderella Man" seems to be getting pretty good buzz, so I might be in the minority here ... but I thought it was a likable, polished, ultimately frustrating movie. Sure, it's good. Sure, it's worth seeing. But this could have been a Pantheon Sports Movie if not for one insurmountable problem.

(Should I tell you the problem, or should you just see the movie and find out for yourself?)

(Ah, screw it.)

MORE "CINDERELLA MAN"
Check out Jeff Merron's Real vs. Reel comparison, and Page 3's interview with Russell Crowe, and then vote for best boxing nickname ever.
  • For original Braddock-Baer fight video, check out ESPN360.com

  • Here was the problem: The boxing scenes. They're a mess. They're confusing. They're not that entertaining to watch. Eventually, you end up more frustrated than anything. Wait, who's getting hit? Is that Russell Crowe? Why are they showing his legs? Cool, a wide shot, now I can see ... whoops, back to somebody's torso again. Who just got punched? I can't see ... is someone bleeding? Why's the crowd cheering? Why do they keep freezing the film as someone lands a punch? Wait, whose shoulder is that? Why are we looking at the crowd again? On and on it goes. These fights made me so dizzy, I started hoping for quick knockouts so we could be treated to more of the Great Depression.

    Was Crowe realistic as a boxer? After two-plus hours, I still couldn't tell you. He looks like a '30s boxer, right down to the natural muscle tone and the thick trunk below his chest, and he held his hands the right way and seemed to be snapping punches. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine. Because director Ron Howard edited everything briskly, avoided wide shots and filmed everything tighter than Fox's dugout close-ups during the baseball playoffs – seriously, when has that ever worked in a sports movie??? – you can't get a feel for the little stuff like "Wow, Crowe has great footwork!" and "Holy crap, he actually took that punch right in the jaw!" Isn't that one of the enjoyable subplots in any boxing movie?

    Continued...


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