Cinderella Man

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Cinderella Man
Review (9/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Cinderella Man is the new movie starring the likes of Russell Crowe, Renee Zellwegger and Paul Giamatti, directed by Ron Howard and telling us the story of professional boxer James J. Braddock (Crowe). The movie chronicles the real-life events of the life of the former heavyweight contender who was making more than $8000 a fight (a helluva lot of money for that time) until the Great Depression hit. It was then that Braddock lost everything, was living in extreme poverty with his wife (Zellwegger) and three kids, broke his hand and was de-commissioned by the professional boxing commission. Lost and confused, poor and hungry, just scraping by, Braddock was then offered chump change (I think less than $200) for a seemingly nothing fight against a legitimate heavyweight contender. The fight was supposed to be a mere warm-up for the contender but when Braddock was able to win that fight and another and another, he was soon able to claw his way back to being a legitimate contender but this time with the hearts and souls of a down-trodden America backing him up every step of the way.

I loved Cinderella Man. I hear this movie taking a lot of flack for being too much of a "Cinderella" story, for its cheap fight scenes etc. and even for Crowe's empty performance but I have to say I absolutely loved it. I thought the movie was well-made, the acting was superb and the story was fantastic. I expect to see Crowe and perhaps even Giamatti and Howard mentioned at Oscar time. This movie is that good. To tell you the truth, I'm not even a huge Russell Crowe fan but I must give the guy credit. He's delivered nothing short of Oscar-calibre performances in almost every single movie he lays his big, fat, hairy Australian hands on over the last seven or eight years. In James Braddock, he plays a boxer, a friend, a loving father and a husband and he does so with nothing short of perfection. The rest of the cast, including Zellwegger (as Braddock's loyal wife), Giamatti (as Jim's longtime manager Joe Goul) and Craig Bierko (who played heavyweight champ Max Baer) are equally outstanding, although it seems that Mr. Crowe would disagree with my assessment of Bierko. Apparently Bierko was complaining that he never got to know Crowe on the set of Cinderella Man and he wouldn't know him "from Adam" to which Crowe retorted, "he hadn't done enough work and he had to be drilled and drilled, and brought up to where we needed him to be....He didn't realize what he was getting into....He realized afterwards." Well, I thought he was good, Russell.

As for the fight scenes, I wouldn't call them outstanding but I found the final fight between Braddock and Baer to be very intense. I really had no clue what was going to happen and even though Howard chose to cut between the fight, the crowd, his family and the trainers, I thought at least the cuts between the family and the fight were interesting and entertaining.

Anyways, before I continue babbling on about Cinderella Man and make people wonder if I am about to have a private moment or something like that, I am just going to reiterate that I, personally, really enjoyed this movie. I found it to be inspirational and uplifting and it is my choice as the best boxing movie since Rocky. Was the movie overly dramatic? Perhaps at times. Was it perfect? Well, I didn't really think the whole subplot with Braddock's friend Mike Wilson was necessary or developed enough. Did it make James Braddock look like a saint? In some ways yes and in other ways no. But who knows. Maybe Braddock was that good of a man, a man willing to do anything for his wife, his kids and his friends. I would like to think that there are people in the world like that and perhaps one of those people was James J. Braddock. Cinderella Man is not just a movie about boxing. It is a movie about a great man and it is a movie that shows what it takes to be a great man. I'm sure there are a lot of wonderful people in the world like James Braddock but sadly there are too many that are not. But that has nothing to do with the movie and now, I am in fact babbling and feel like I might soon be standing on a soap box so I will end by saying that Cinderella Man comes highly recommended by this movie connisseur (bwhaha) and if there is any movie you want to check out in the next few weeks, this might just be the one for you. The scene where Braddock goes to the boxing commission and pays a visit to all the big-wigs might alone be worth the price of admission.

Just as a sidenote - this movie was filmed in Toronto and part of the movie was filmed where I work. I was able to walk on the set, I saw Ron Howard and Russell Crowe in action and the whole filming session lasted about two or three full days. However, from what I can tell, the scenes they filmed probably added up to about 30 seconds of the movie. Three days of filming for 30 seconds of a movie? Damn. I don't know a lot about making movies but it makes you wonder about the whole movie-making process and why movies cost $100 million to make...

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