Great real-life story, but not great film realization
I had recently commented to a friend of mine about the generally high quality of movies based on real-life boxing legends. While there were some truly bad films made about fictitious boxers, the biopics seemed quite reliable: Somebody Up There Likes Me; The Great White Hope; Raging Bull; even Ali and Hurricane I felt were decent films that were under appreciated. Thus, when I saw this film about Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, I figured I would give it a shot. While not a terrible film, it was a disappointment.
The story seems a natural: Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were each heavyweight champion of the world for a time in the 1930s (Louis continuing as champion through the end of the 1940s). Louis was a black boxer during a time of widespread racism. Schmeling was a German boxer during the early part of Hitler's reign. Due to the times in which they fought, each fighter's career took on meaning beyond the men themselves, although each wanted fans to focus on them just as boxers and keep the politics out of it.
Given the politics, the two meetings of these great boxers should have made for compelling storytelling, but the treatment here is only so-so TV movie fare. The script was too modest, with no flashes of brilliance to lift it up. The cast consisted of second-tier actors at best who could not breathe life into the film. I would like to see a great film made from this story, but Ring of Passion was not it.
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