Russell Crowe plays real-life boxer Jim Braddock in this punchy biopic. 4/5 stars
In 1928, he's a top heavyweight contender, but the Wall Street crash and a broken hand put his life and career in tatters.
As he falls on hard times and struggles to feed and keep a roof over the heads of his supportive wife (Renée Zelleweger) and three children, out of the blue he's given a second chance.
It's 1934 and, unfit, untrained and with an empty stomach, Braddock steps in when a championship contender needs a last-minute punchbag to replace an injured opponent.
There's a fearless hunger in Crowe's eyes and it's that raw survival instinct that makes the boxing scenes crackle. Paul Giamatti gives a firecracker of a performance as his manager and Craig Bierko is charmismatic as the smiling champ, Max Baer.
Braddock was a real-life Rocky who brought hope and inspiration to Depression-wracked Americans and this punchy biopic serves him well.
Director Ron Howard catches the period amazingly well, though there are some amusing slips. Jim would hardly have dreamed of a steak dinner with Mickey Rooney in early-1933, as the star had yet to make his name and was only 12 years old!
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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