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Joe and Max (2002)

True story of boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmeling and their enduring friendship.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Blackburn
Marva Lewis
John Toles-Bey ...
Jim Farley
August Zirner ...
Paolino Uzcudun (as Cole McKay)


True story of boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmeling and their enduring friendship.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama | Sport | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for fight sequences and brief strong language | See all certifications »





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Release Date:

3 March 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Joe and Max - Rivalen im Ring  »

Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


Version of Ring of Passion (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

Good story, bad film
2 March 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The true story of the relationship between world heavyweight champion Joe Louis and European heavyweight champion Max Schmelling is one of the "truth is stranger than fiction" variety. In their first meeting in 1936, a young Joe Lewis was the leading contender for a title shot while the 10 years older German Schmelling was the European champion. When underdog Schmelling defeated Lewis he reluctantly became a propaganda icon for Hitlers regime. Lewis at that time was the pride and hope of the "Negro race" (as people of African lineage were then called by decent people), but "white" America apparently was wary of him. After he beat Schmelling in the second fight Lewis became an idol of all America, while the embarrassed Nazis made Schmelling a non-entity in Nazi Germany. During the war Schmelling was made an ordinary soldier in the German Army, while Lewis' tour in the US Army was as a celebrity used for troop morale. Later, after Lewis retired undefeated, he learned that he owed a huge amount of money to the IRS and had to go back into boxing to try to rid himself of the debt. (The film does not get into the details, but supposedly Lewis, who was not well educated, had relied on his manager and promoter to handle his finances, including preparing tax returns.) But Lewis was too old now and was humiliated in the ring. He then took a variety of demeaning jobs in an attempt to pay off the debt, which he never was able to accomplish. The movie does not address the disgraceful issue of why no U.S. President gave him some sort of a pardon forgiving this American hero of the debt. In the meantime, Schmelling has a phoenix-like reversal of fortune when Coca Cola sought him out to use him in a campaign to capture the German market for its product.

So the basis for an interesting movie was there. The problem was in the implementation.

The film seemed badly paced and choppy. Many of the scenes seemed to me needlessly drawn out, with the camera sometimes lingering on objects, such as a railroad train for no reason that I can think of. The parts of the film I liked best are the scenes in with Schmelling (Til Schweiger) and his actress wife (Peta Wilson) in Germany.

As was noted in another comment, the actors looked nothing like the well known people they were portraying. Although not stated in the IMDb cast listing, it looked to me that different actors were used for the younger and older Joe Lewis, with neither resembling the real Joe Lewis nor even each other. Rocky Marciano, a short fireplug of a fighter with a battered face he got wading into his taller, longer armed opponents that often made him look more like the loser than the winner of his fights, was played by a tall unmarked fighter. The musical score does nothing to aid the movie.

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