Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Cliff Hollingsworth
I distinctly remember having no interest in seeing this movie when it came out back in 05, but I saw it in the theater despite that. I went to the movies with my brother and it was his suggestion. I only agreed on this one because Russell Crowe had recently got in trouble for beating someone up. I don’t remember what the circumstances of what he was in trouble for were but it was for beating someone up for something. I remember liking the idea of a guy in the news for beating people up having a big budget movie where he was a boxer in theaters. Thinking back to it now I find myself wondering if that was indeed a coincidence or an interesting plan for publicity.
There are more movies made about boxing than any other sport and not all of them were made by Sylvester Stallone. Men who dedicate their lives to fighting often find themselves in interesting situations in life. The lives they live can be so dramatic yet so inspiring, either way their lives are often story worthy. It takes a special type of person to choose a life of fighting, of hurting and getting hurt. Those people are fascinating and we all love the opportunity to observe them from a distance, and to cheer for them when they are punching the shit out of the other guy. James J. Braddock was one of these interesting men and he lived not only an interesting life but through a very interesting time in our country’s history that we should all remember and learn from, The Great Depression. Braddock was an inspiring fighter during a time when many people were in serious need of inspiration. This movie does a really good job of capturing the desperation of the Great Depression without going too far and becoming overly sappy. Times were harder than most of us can imagine today and it took a hard person to survive it.
I always love a movie that surprises me and this one definitely did. I am a fan of both Russell Crowe and Ron Howard but didn’t really like their earlier collaboration with A Beautiful Mind so my expectations for this one were low. This movie proved to me that they both still had a lot to offer in their careers. I think this is just one of many fantastic movies from Russell Crowe, he seems to get better with age too. He apparently took quite the beating during the making of this film and sustained several injuries on set. I was raised in North Carolina not all that far from Mt. Airy, in fact I have to go there for work often and pass right through old Mayberry. I grew up watching Opie Talyor, then Richie Cunningham, and then the fantastic movies made by Ron Howard. Howard is an interesting person because he has spent his whole life in the business. There is a lot of talk about what stardom can do to children with the problems of so many celebrities but Ron Howard has only gotten more successful as time went on. Ron Howard did a great job with this movie by really capturing the struggles on all levels of society during the Depression, and the boxing matches were wicked.
The rest of the cast to this film was great as well. Renee Zellweger is such a fantastic actress, and she brings a lot to the film as Braddock’s wife. The film industry chooses beauty over talent far too often and we don’t have enough actresses like Zellweger because of it. I think Paul Giamatti falls into the same category oddly enough, he has had to work really hard to get where he is, and it is his talent that got him there. He brings a lot of emotion to this film in a seemingly effortless fashion and it is his performance that helps captivate us with the Braddock character.
As in all boxing movies you need a loud mouth opponent to hate. Hating the other guy makes us fall in love with our hero even more. In this film that opponent is a former real life heavyweight champion Max Baer and the film may have taken some liberties with the character to fit him in the mold of the bad guy. Max Baer is actually the father of Max Baer Jr. who played Jethro on the original The Beverly Hillbillies, and needless to say he and the Baer family weren’t thrilled with the portrayal of their patriarch. He was portrayed as a brutal man who wanted to hurt men more than beat them, a rude and despicable man. Craig Bierko played the part well whether it was an accurate portrayal or not. This movie may be “based on a true story” but that doesn’t make everything in it true, and we as viewers must always understand that.
I think I have rambled on about this movie enough now but I hope you give it a shot if you haven’t seen it. It’s got a great and inspiring story, great performances, and was made by a grade A professional in Ron Howard. Historical accuracy not withstanding there is still plenty to learn about our own nation’s history with this film. The poverty on all social levels was true, the homeless taking up residence in a shanty towns they named Hooverville, after President Hoover, was true, and James J. Braddock really was a nobody who managed to beat the world heavyweight champion and inspire the masses during tough times. All that makes for something worth seeing, this movie is definitely worth your time.
One final note about Ron Howard. I mentioned his early work on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, but failed to mention some of his more recent work in television, Arrested Development. It is probably one of my all-time favorite comedies and it did not last long enough. It was an intelligent comedy that people weren’t ready for and it didn’t get the ratings it deserved. With the lack of ratings it only made it three seasons before being shut down by FOX. If you have never seen it then you should go out of your way to buy it and watch every episode multiple times. If you have seen it then I have fantastic news for you. The show is reuniting for six episodes that will be aired on the internet via Netflix. It’s awesome because we get more of the hilarious Bluth family, and interesting because it is being offered the show via internet only. This signals big changes in the industry that will also eventually affect how we receive all viewing media.
Wow, Ryan wrote a book. First of all let me just say that I can’t stand Russell Crowe. I am the only person that I know that doesn’t like him. I also hate movies about boxing and wrestling. I never want to watch them and I dread it when a new one comes out because I just know Ryan is going to make me watch it. However, this movie is more than worth your time. It is the classic cliché boxing movie, but it is so worth you time for the uplifting power that it has. It will take the problems in your life and make them seem like little details in your life. I also love the fact that it is set during the Great Depression. Sometimes, in America, especially right now, we think we have it so hard, but in reality we just have no idea. Nothing really compares to being that poor. This movie is heart-felt and well worth your time.
NEXT MOVIE: Clash of the Titans (1981)