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Reviews & Ratings for
Shadowboxer More at IMDbPro »

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60 out of 84 people found the following review useful:

Breaking All the Rules

10/10
Author: sunbowei from United States
25 July 2006

Breaking conventional rules, Shadowboxer is dark, sexy, and very violent. On many levels the movie is uncomfortable to watch. All of the characters are flawed and the brazen sexuality and raw emotional performances, by a superb cast, is hard to watch at times. This is no popcorn movie but a thesis on age, sex, family, and violence. The direction was a little heavy handed, and in some scenes, it overshadowed the actors. Expect to see more in the future from Mo'nique in her break out role; and Macy Gray, as usual, was entertaining to watch. Cuba Gooding Jr, looking not much older than he was in the "Show me the money" days in his Oscar winning performance in Jerry Maguire, is superb. In fact, I think that his is an important role in the history of film. A black man as an object of sexual desire by an older white woman certainly breaks the norms. Their intimate relationship will test your own beliefs on age and race. But by the time you figure out where you stand, another scene will give you reason to pause and think. And I guess that's what I like most about the film--being forced to confront issues I rarely think about and being entertained at the same time.

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48 out of 73 people found the following review useful:

Found it very enjoyable and a good perf. from Cuba

8/10
Author: tofferotti from United States
26 September 2005

I just saw this film in the directors cut version on Friday night. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Lee Daniels was at the screening and it was a screening for the investors so nobody was going to pull punches because they had money involved. It took a little while to get into the plot but I was totally sucked in after a while. It will supposedly be released in December and hopefully won't be cut down too much. There were some sex scenes that will probably go because some people in this country can't handle it, but nothing that I felt was gratuitous or just sex for the sake of showing some nudity. Some may also find the violence objectionable but nothing close to SinCity or any war movie ever made. I hope the film does well and the public enjoys it. Who cares what the industry has to say. They promote absolute garbage with a full wallet all the time. Check this one out and form an opinion for yourself.

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37 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

worth the time

7/10
Author: don-brown from United States
6 August 2006

Movie has its flaws like the blonde wig that lasts for years and then disappears without comment but I have to admit that generally the movie was well crafted. It moves at a clip that supports its gory and odd characters. Some of the pairings are fabulous .. are there really people walking among us that are like that? I prefer to believe they only exist in screenwriters minds. Mirren is her usual superb self and Gooding shows he really can act. The question is were they in love or was he simply controlled by her. I did not look forward to a nude scene with a woman her age but it was handled extremely well. Also the music choices were excellent. I haven't seen any comments about that aspect of the film.

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39 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

Doesn't Live Up To Its Potential

3/10
Author: movieoooo from United States
12 December 2005

I can't believe I'm agreeing with the other review but Cuba's role did erase snow dogs from my memory. He was phenomenal.

Thats about the only nice thing I can say about this film. It has a number of problems and I suspect Mr. Daniels would not like to hear any of them, the two worst:

1. All shock and no substance. Sex and violence are fine, when they are part of the story. I'm sure Lee thinks they are part of the story, but the film would have been 1000 times better if it were a bit more subtle. This is a difficult point to grasp. I wasn't offended or anything, I just think it looks like he is using this as a crutch instead of art. It comes across as trying to hard to be edgy. It basically loses its impact.

2. Boring Story. So ridiculously predictable. Its really a shame given the great acting and interesting characters. Total fizzle at the end though.

3. Doesn't live up to its potential. Well cast, great acting, beautiful cinematography, but somehow all the pieces just don't fit.

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18 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Cleverly Weird!

6/10
Author: bless1 from United States
5 June 2007

I must say that this film is extremely weird. The acting by Cuba Gooding Jr. is not surprising. He always lives up to the roles of the character in most of his movies. He was good. The producer used great colors and slow still images in all right scenes.(especially the love scenes). From start to finish this film is somewhat mysterious. It sticks with you after the ending credits are rolling. You would have to watch it and pay close attention to the dialogue to understand what is really happening. It's not an action movie(although there are scenes of violence), and the only thing that grabs your attention is how the movie actually ends. After seeing how it ends, i must say that the ending was very predictable(thats not to say that the ending was horrible, it was great). If you are into mystery movies you would want to pick this one up, but don't expect anything major. There should be a sequel!

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29 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Mr. Black's Grade: B

7/10
Author: dvdguy2005 from Toronto, Canada
5 October 2005

Shadowboxer Mr. Black's Grade: B Starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren.

First-time director Lee Daniels, producer of two challenging projects, Monster's Ball and The Woodsman tries his hand behind the lens. Mirren plays a female assassin who is diagnosed with cancer, and decides to carry out a final killing assisted by Gooding.

Shadowboxer certainly is a dark film - think Prizzi's Honor but with a very different tone - but Helen Mirren handles this 'unique' relationship with tenderness and dignity. I thought the ending wasn't terribly suspenseful, and it should have been. I kept trying picture how a different, and more experienced director would handle it. A number of crew members were there for the Q/A, including the director. Heck, even a PA came in from Philly (you keener!) Wes Bentley was scheduled to co-star but dropped out.

His role was filled by Cuba Gooding Jr., who succeeded in erasing Snow Dogs from my memory. He is very good here, playing it straight and very cold. In the Q/A afterwards he talked about the differences between doing comedy and drama. He said that he is pursuing roles that allow humor to come from the actions of the character - like in this film - and not obvious comedy. He enjoyed the laughter that his character got from the crowd at the screening, when his character was reacting to situations within the plot and not 'trying' to be funny.

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17 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

pretty pretentious and ultimately unsatisfying

5/10
Author: Kevin Maness from St. Davids, PA
2 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie was pretentious and mediocre, at best. I liked the performances by Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Helen Mirren, and a decent job by Vanessa Ferlito (who I found difficult to enjoy when she appeared in season 3 of "24"). But the direction and cinematography were cloying and manipulative. There were all these hazy, diffused, slow-motion images of leaves falling and sun glinting and naked bodies rolling around in bed or on the ground. I think the director is one of many contemporary, pedestrian filmmakers whose only means of depicting emotion is a close-up of an actor emoting, and whose only means for showing intimacy between actors is a sex scene. Eventually, though, even though I admired Gooding's performance, I got tired of seeing the soft-focused, beefcake photography of his naked or semi-naked body.

And the writing fairly sucked, too. Not only was this yet another movie about an aging, dying assassin questioning his/her moral status and the existence of God, but the movie constantly brought up plot points and character conflicts that it, seemingly, had no interest in. What exactly is Gooding's relationship with Mirren? Who is the Gooding character? Is he anything other than a weird, incestuous, lover/son/boy-toy and business associate of Mirren's? There were other points that needed exploring as well, but the movie seemed to have no problem forgetting them, so I've already forgotten them as well. And there were other things, too, like elements of the story that were purely for the sake of narrative convenience. Like the entire character played by Stephen Dorff. I keep looking forward to the day when we get fed-up with movies that must establish early on that their villains are irredeemably evil sadists who deserve any horrible fate that awaits them in the final reel. But Daniels apparently doesn't think we've gotten to that point, yet. Another unexplained narrative convenience is the 5-6 years that pass in an instant so that the child in the movie is suddenly about 7-8 years old. I think the only reason for this is so that the kid is old enough to use a gun well enough to emerge as the filius ex machina at the end of the movie. Meanwhile, every other character, conflict, and relationship in the movie is in suspended animation while the kid gets old enough to be the budding little button man that he eventually becomes.

I guess that's one of my gripes. I think this could have been a better movie (still derivative, but stronger) if it had allowed Gooding's character to be the main character in the movie. But instead of revealing his character, all Daniels managed to do was to reveal was his stony face, rock-hard biceps, and trim buttocks. I didn't get anything close to a satisfying glimpse of what made him who he was, other than the clichéd childhood traumas concerning his hit-man father. But even if that was the anchor issue in his life, the movie doesn't reveal Gooding working through it or even the extent to which it matters to him. Apparently, the movie thinks this pop-psych backstory is important, since the movie ends with Gooding's life echoing in that of surrogate son, but since I never quite know what Gooding's childhood meant to him, I don't really care about what it might mean to the monstrous little Anthony who has magically learned to kill and be fine with it.

My sense is that in this film's rush to be important, it missed every opportunity to be "important" (whatever that means) as well as the chance just to be entertaining. It could have focused fruitfully on either Mirren's character or Gooding's, but instead it flitted from Mirren to Dorff to Gooding to the doctor and Mo'Nique, etc. I'm curious to see what happens when this movie gets out into the world (apparently in June). I can't imagine it being a wide release, but in the art house circuit it will compare very unfavorably to movies that are better directed and better written.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Breaks some rules alright

6/10
Author: kosmasp
8 October 2007

As another reviewer stated, this movie does break rules. But is that enough? And through all the rule-breaking, there still is a core/central storyline that does seem familiar, to say the least. OK so some people will/might be offended by the sexual nature of the movie and or maybe by the violence. Although the latter isn't quite as brutal as some other movie efforts, you might have seen. Why is this special then compared to those movies? The cast plays into that. Who would've imagined, Cuba Gooding Jr., Stephen Dorff and Helen Mirren (although only the latter is a real surprise here). A nice little movie, but apart from the obvious scenes that try to provoke a reaction (especially in America and the moral standards, that are implied by some), this isn't really a movie that I would call a classic! I thought it was OK, but it won't shake up your world ...

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Disturbing, Brilliant Performances

9/10
Author: paddyolguin from Los Angeles, California
26 January 2008

This is a movie you love or hate. I loved it. First, the "preposterous plot." Helen Mirren is a gorgeous woman. I had no problem believing Cuba's character would desire her in addition to be utterly loyal to her and dependent on her). I liked that the story's time-line was longer than just about any kind of crime thriller you'd see these days.

This is definitely not a popcorn movie, and you will find yourself shocked at the violence and then moved by the touching scenes. Nothing is exploitive or gratuitous in this film. The grisly violence, intense sexuality and touching interdependence of the characters serve to underscore just how absurdly varying a life (or lives) can be.

I think sometimes moviegoers expect too much from film. Not every movie is A Streetcar Named Desire. There were important, fundamental themes in this movie - love, lust, loyalty, guilt, shame... all brilliantly conveyed by the actors. If you have a problem with imperfect plots, rent a documentary.

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14 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Too Many Preposterous Story lines to Keep this Sleeper Alive

5/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
13 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lee Daniels (Monster's Ball, The Woodsmen) doesn't seem to know what to do with this script of a story by William Lipz that has so many incongruities that it simply becomes a muddled mélange of criminal psychology, sociological misfits, and ruminations on the presence of a greater meaning to all the wild madness that eventually drowns the characters. One wonders why such enormously gifted actors such as Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding, Jr. ever accepted roles if they read the script beforehand.

A very mature and cancer-ridden Rose (Helen Mirren, who can truly make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!) is a professional assassin who has raised Mikey (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) to be her co-assassin as well as her very young lover. The two function well as a team and succeed in making a handsome living by killing people to whom they are assigned by a wheelchair-ridden broker. But when one of the marks is big time crime boss Clayton (Stephen Dorff at his most buff to date, eye candy persona) and his wife Vickie (Vanessa Ferlito), all goes well until Rose faces the problem that Vickie is pregnant, a fact that seems to create a sense of guilt and loss and causes her not only to spare her and also to deliver the male child. After calling in a corrupt doctor Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and is lover/nurse Precious (Mo'Nique) to help them out, Rose and Mikey harbor the new mother and child and sequester themselves to raise the child, a life style that allows Mikey to continue his assassin jobs while Rose finds happiness raising the young boy. But of course eventually the evil Clayton disrupts the flow of goodwill, gains information from the Precious after an adulterous office tryst, and it is face to face between Clayton and his wife and son and Rose and Mikey. The ending defies sharing, not only because it would mar the viewer's watching, but it borders on surrealistic bizarre images that are of questionable taste.

During all of this convoluted story we are given flashbacks that attempt to fill in the interstices in the plot: Mikey's relationship to his father, his first killing, Rose's introduction into crime etc. Granted there are some moments of quiet and beauty in all of this mess, but the true reason for sitting through it is the always satisfying presence of Helen Mirren (who actually gets us to believe her preposterous character and motivation) and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (who needs to change agents to get roles more important and conducive to his gifts). With so many fine stories waiting to be made into film one wonders why drivel such as this makes it to the screen on time! Grady Harp

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