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Boxing Gym (2010)

Unrated | | Documentary | 9 March 2011 (France)
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Explores the world of a boxing gym in Austin, Texas, dwelling on the discipline of training as people from all walks of life aspire to reach their personal best.

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Explores the world of a boxing gym in Austin, Texas, dwelling on the discipline of training as people from all walks of life aspire to reach their personal best.

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Documentary

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Unrated
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9 March 2011 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Academia de Boxe  »

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Opening Weekend USA:

$2,036, 26 November 2010, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$34,502, 5 December 2010
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The anti-Wiseman Wiseman film
25 August 2014 | by See all my reviews

Frederick Wiseman's Boxing Gym is the first film of the man that I haven't enjoyed to the extent of praising and demanding everyone of my immediate friends the value of seeing it, and the first time I was grateful to see his runtime on a picture was relatively short. Boxing Gym profiles a boxing gym in Austin, Texas, a place that is packed with folks of all different sizes, ages, builds, and ethnic backgrounds who want to express their love and aspirations for the field of boxing, and runs at only ninety-one minutes long, a farcry from some Wiseman films which can last up to six or seven hours a piece. At ninety-one minutes, Boxing Gym is perfect in length, which is something I never wanted to say about a Wiseman film.

In order to appreciate Boxing Gym, I would go as far to say you have to be into boxing or the sport of martial arts, and not just Wiseman and his ever-so fascinating tactics. As a non-fan of boxing and its surrounding, sister fields, there's little the film offered other than a quiet, often meditative, but unfortunately, underexplored subsector of American pastimes that focuses so much on the grueling rituals its patrons endure and less on their mentalities and personalities on their passion. Exploring the activity behind a certain sport like this is only half the battle; what needs to be considered is the level of time, effort, persistency, and passion put into this pastime with, often times, far-reaching dreams, and sadly, Boxing Gym doesn't house much of the latter.

Wiseman explores the patrons at the gym with a sense of alienation, which is especially strange given how much he seemed to really immerse himself in cultures like a college campus, a mental hospital, a public housing project in Chicago, and even a sleepy town in Maine. Wiseman frequently puts himself in tough, uncompromising positions as a documentary filmmaker, effectively making him one of the bravest documentarians I know, unafraid to explore locales and institutions that otherwise go unseen by most of the public. With Boxing Gym, idea may have surpassed reality, and in turn, we see a display of events rather than characters, and the events we do see are monotonous and dreary, almost like a ritual themselves. We are then robbed of the ideas that can stem from a passion that allows such commitment and devotion.

Wiseman has never been about forcing ideas down a viewer's throat, nor has he ever been known for formal, on-camera interviews, the use of title cards, or anything. He lets the pictures, the sound, and the dialog carry the story, strung together by a surprisingly-flawless editing structure, given the lack of directorial interference on his behalf. However, Boxing Gym feels empty and slight, never focusing enough on the people behind these gyms and far too busy profiling tiresome scenes of boxing, running, jumping rope, and training, with the interactions between trainer and trainee are limited and in short supply.

The most entertaining segments in Boxing Gym show Wiseman focusing on people who discuss a sense of pride developing because of their devotion to the sport. This is when we get a sense of who is behind this boxing gym and what kind of people we're dealing with. We hear from fathers who want their kids to attend the gym regularly, people who have trained for life and possess professional ambitions all the more, and even young people looking for an activity and a hobby. Not everyone goes to the boxing gym for the same reasons, Wiseman seems to be telling us, but again, that's something we could've assumed.

Like a lot of sports interviews and press conferences, the subjects in Boxing Gym are predictable and what they say is even more predictable; on that note alone the film seems to be incredibly distant from what Wiseman has been doing for years. What he did with films like At Berkeley, Belfast, Maine, Public Housing, and Titicut Follies was profile institutions with people whose stories went criminally untold and left without any particular voice. Wiseman cut through the objectifying, analytical, empiricist approach to subjects that also needed a firmly human core at their center, and Wiseman strove to get that and, with those four aforementioned films, achieved untold greatness. With Boxing Gym, the results, while somewhat commendable and consistently watchable, feel perfunctory and almost a waste of time for Wiseman, which may only be evident by the film's surprisingly brief runtime.

Directed by: Frederick Wiseman.


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