films pack a punch
Fans may debate how much RockyBalboaadds to the Rocky oeuvre. But there’s no mystery why Sylvester Stallone has made six films about boxing, and just one about disco dancing.
Dramatically, boxing has it all: One man (or woman) with nothing left to lose, confronting personal demons, forced to battle the pain one last time for family, loyalty and redemption, with the chance to go from rags to riches (and then maybe back).
And that’s besides the bloody action scenes.
All-star directors such as John Huston, Robert Wise and Martin Scorsese have made art out of boxing’s brutality, graceful movements and muscular bodies. The Rocky saga has borrowed these cliches masterfully. But if your fight-flick literacy goes only from I to V, you’re missing some classics. Here are a few contenders based on real-life boxers: CinderellaMansticks to facts that best tell the storybook tale of James J Braddock’s journey from Depression poverty to the world title. It’s tenaciously upbeat: Braddock (Russell Crowe, pictured) is never shown losing a fight or having a serious argument with his wife (Renee Zellweger) despite terrible circumstances. RagingBull, by contrast, is like watching a car wreck. It’s vintage Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta, the destructive, selfdestructive middleweight of the 1940s and ’50s. The blackand-white film’s screenplay explodes with violence and obscenity, and the fight scenes, often using super-slowmotion, are brutal and handsome. Will Smith moves like a boxer in the stylish Ali, a long look at the battles of Muhammad Ali. But even the charismatic Smith doesn’t fully capture Ali’s electricity. In GentlemanJim, Errol Flynn is debonair and athletic as early champ James J Corbett, nosing his way into turn-of-thecentury San Francisco society.