There's a considerable amount of talent -- both fresh and seasoned -- involved in "Price of Glory", an underdog family drama about a father's determination to realize his failed pro boxing dreams through the lives of his three young sons.
While it sticks to a fairly safe and familiar formula, the picture, which closed the 15th Santa Barbara (Calif.) International Film Festival on Sunday, is elevated substantially by convincing casting and handsome production values, not the least of which is a solid feature directorial debut by Carlos Avila.
But despite offering considerable entertainment value for the buck with its three-"Rockys"- in-one dynamic, its fate in the boxoffice ring will ultimately be determined by New Line's ability to reach its targeted Latino demographic and generate crossover word-of-mouth.
Jimmy Smits, leaving his "NYPD Blue" days far behind him, is in fine form as hard-headed Arturo Ortega, a former boxer whose world-champion aspirations were abruptly cut short many years ago. Now married with three boys, he has become obsessed with turning his sons into contenders at any emotional cost.
Comprising the fighting Ortegas is Sonny (Jon Seda
), the eldest; classic middle child Jimmy (Clifton Collins Jr.), the frustrated black sheep of the family; and baby Johnny (Ernesto Hernandez), the devoted apple of his father's eye.
Arturo's brand of tough love doesn't work well for approval-starved Jimmy, a scrapper of a fighter who feels he's always in the shadow of his golden-boy Big Brother
. But Sonny will soon have his own issues with his dad, when he announces his plans to get married, insisting that boxing can't be the only part of his life.
Quietly standing by his father's side through all of the family tensions is Johnny, the most promising of the siblings, who assures Arturo that he'll be his avenging angel in the broken dreams department.
Of course, things have a way of not always working out as planned.
In a potentially tricky role, Smits admirably steers clear of what could have been a one-note, bullying performance. In spite of his dogged and somewhat selfish determination to see his sons succeed, there's a sense that he truly believes he's trying to give them a direction and a future that will be better than the menial job he has had to settle for in order to support his family.
All three sons, including promising newcomer Hernandez, aside from being completely believable as brothers, demonstrate an affecting sensitivity in their relationship with the elder Ortega and their mother (Maria Del Mar), who does her share of standing up to her stubborn husband even though she knows it's often a lost cause.
Good, too, are Ron Perlman
as a slick, powerful promoter and comedian Paul Rodriguez in a sturdy dramatic turn as his pushy operative.
While the script, by former New York Times sportswriter Phil Berger, could have easily stood some trimming, it certainly allows Avila the opportunity to make a strong first impression as a director who can get the job done effectively and efficiently.
He gets some fine assistance from a pro technical team headed by cinematographer Affonso Beato
("All About My Mother"), who gives the modestly budgeted production a rich, deep focus and keeps the fight sequences involving without having to resort to showy visual cliches.
PRICE OF GLORY
An Esparza-Katz production in association with
Arthur E. Friedman Prods.
Producers:Moctesuma Esparza, Robert Katz and Arthur E. Friedman
Executive producer:Loretha Jones
Executive producers:Carolyn Manetti, Stephanie Striegel
Director of photography:Affonso Beato
Production designer:Robb Wilson King
Costume designer:Ruth Carter
Music supervisor:Margaret Guerra Rogers
Music:Joseph Julian Gonzalez
Arturo Ortega:Jimmy Smits
Sonny Ortega:Jon Seda
Jimmy Ortega:Clifton Collins Jr.
Johnny Ortega:Ernesto Hernandez
Rita Ortega:Maria Del Mar
Nick Everson:Ron Perlman
Running time -- 118 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13