Not a movie for the cynics, Cinderella Man is a great film which contains excellent performances and a moving story.
As a boxing film, it contains the technical savvy of Ali, the realism of Raging Bull and the heart of Rocky.
Cinderella Man tells the inspirational true story of 1930’s heavyweight boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe), the “Bulldog of Bergen, the Pride of New Jersey and the Hope of the Irish.”
Married to dutiful housewife Mae (Renee Zelwegger) and father of three children, Braddock began his boxing career as an up and coming light heavyweight on his way to a shot at the title. 4 years later, he and his family have fallen on hard times due to the Great Depression and the numerous boxing injuries accumulated over the years which sent his career spiralling.
Struggling to pay the bills, Braddock is given a second chance through the persistent business dealings of his trainer/manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti).
With Gould setting up the fights and Braddock winning them in convincing fashion, he is given a shot at the title held by the malicious Max Baer (Craig Bierko), a vicious fighter who has killed two men in the ring.
Although based on a true story, Cinderella Man does not hold much in the way of originality. Movies portraying the working class underdog fighting adversity in a world that has failed them are common place, especially in regards to the sports genre. But not many can boast the type of performances, set design, cinematography and direction as found here.
As Braddock, Crowe delivers one of his best performances. It’s the type of meaty, blue collar role that suits Crowe perfectly, delivering a flawless accent and appearing in great shape.
Renee Zelwegger is very good as the wife trying to keep things together on the home front; Paul Giamatti is excellent as Braddock’s wheeling and dealing manager,; and Craig Bierko is surprisingly good as Max Baer, even though he was nothing like the Drago-esque, remorseless killing machine as depicted in the film, a portrayal that had boxing critics and Baer’s family up in arms.
The affection for Braddock and his story can be felt in every frame and heard in every word. Despite the previous flaw in regards to Baer, Cinderella Man does seem to be a meticulously researched film which has spared no expense in bringing Braddock’s story to life. Director
Director Ron Howard keeps a consistent, sharp tone throughout while not resorting to any overtly sappy moments which many films of this ilk have a tendency to do. Thomas Newman contributes a stirring score, while the set design – especially in regards to imitation of downtown 1930’s New York City – is excellent.
The extraordinarily well choreographed and executed fight scenes manage to pull off a feat that not any boxing films have been able to do, and that is be realistic, technically brilliant and also entertaining. It is not an easy thing. Just watch Ali to see just how boring boxing can seem on the big screen.