Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" James Gray Bites Into 'Hard Apple' With '70s-Set Animated Crime Series James Gray Bites Into 'Hard Apple' With '70s-Set Animated Crime Series The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

11 Boxing Films That Will Knock You Out

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist December 10, 2010 at 7:15AM

Not every sport works well on the big screen, and it's not always the ones you think. Basketball? Surprisingly, not that cinematic. Golf? Actually pretty gripping, when done well. Soccer? Don't make us laugh. But probably the king of big-screen sports has to be boxing. It's as stripped down as we can get, in terms of games -- two men (usually), in shorts, punching each other in the face.
11
Mark Wahlberg David O. Russell The Fighter

Not every sport works well on the big screen, and it's not always the ones you think. Basketball? Surprisingly, not that cinematic. Golf? Actually pretty gripping, when done well. Soccer? Don't make us laugh. But probably the king of big-screen sports has to be boxing. It's as stripped down as we can get, in terms of games -- two men (usually), in shorts, punching each other in the face.

It's pretty hard to make boxing look uninteresting on screen, and some of the greatest filmmakers ever have done some of their finest work with the sport and, more importantly, with those who take part in it. David O. Russell's drama "The Fighter" hits theaters today in limited release, and, as you'll know from our review, we're big fans: it's as solid a boxing film as has been released in recent years, with some storming performances, and should figure heavily in awards season.

To celebrate its release, we've selected a handful of notable boxing pictures from through the ages. They swing from the masterpieces to... the Ron Shelton movies, but, if Russell's film gives you a taste for the canvas, there are worse places to start. And no, "Kangaroo Jack" didn't make the cut.

“Ali" (2001)
It's fair to say that expectations were sky-high for "Ali." Michael Mann was coming off what's still the best film of his career, "The Insider," and teaming with a giant movie star, Will Smith, who was taking on the most ambitious dramatic role to date, by embodying a true icon. And it's fair to say that, for most, if not all, those expectations weren't met -- the film was mostly shut out of the Oscars, divided critics and audiences, and is somewhat forgotten, nearly a decade on. To some degree, it's deserved -- the film's wildly overlong, attempting to take on too grand a scope of Ali's life, and as a result never really gets to the heart of the man, or the politics surrounding him (the latter not helped by some weak supporting performances like Mario Van Peebles's take on Malcolm X). But when it works, it sings -- like the stunning opening sequence set to Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me," one of the best things Mann's ever shot. It's an uncharacteristically warm, vibrant film from the director, in no small part because of his star -- Smith is genuinely tremendous, borrowing his own star charisma and tripling it for Ali -- five minutes in, you forget that it's Smith at all. If what surrounds him was as good as the central performance, or indeed, that given by Jamie Foxx, the film'd be a classic. [C+]

“Champion" (1949)
Likely to be one of, it not the most anti-boxing boxing movies ever made, Mark Robson's "Champion" is also one that is weird, grim, but not all that compelling. Kirk Douglas stars as Midge Kelly, the "go-getting boxer" who started as a low-means hot head to a two-time title holder. If it wasn't for Douglas' charm (or maybe familiar face), Kelly would be utterly unlikable: he abandons his wife, screws over his brother and promoter, is cocky, schemes people who are scheming him, commits adultery, etc. Predictable it isn't, but some of the more notable oddities are the breaks in tone, going from a film-noir character piece to a romantic comedy (complete with peppy score) to a kitchen-sink drama and back again. Successfully experimental? Well, no, either Robson didn't have the skill to properly direct all of these different approaches or he had no idea that they had no place together in the same film. Despite all of this, the boxing matches are quite lively, but probably the most impressive scene involves Kelly being jumped by gambling sharks, leading to an 8-on-1 impromptu cage-match, complete with plenty of cheap shots and chairs to backs. Robson never again captures this intense energy, nor does he properly exploit this event to amplify or change Douglas' demeanor. There's so much potential for something with substance, but Robson's always missing the boat or sleeping on the job. [C+]

This article is related to: Feature, The Fighter


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates