Tommy Riley has moved with his dad to Chicago from a 'nice place'. He keeps to himself, goes to school. However, after a street fight he is noticed and quickly falls into the world of illegal underground boxing - where punches can kill.
A story of two teenagers trapped in the world of illegal underground boxing. One is fighting to save his fathers life and using the money pay off gambling debts accumulated by his father. The second is fighting for the money to get out of the ghettos. While being exploited by a boxing promoter the two teens become friends. An explosive ending puts the two friends in the ring against each other in a fight for survival.Written by
Joe Miller <email@example.com>
Before Marshall's first fight with the "Black Death", his friend Anardo warns him to watch for his right punch. Then, right before the fight starts, his ringside coach tells him to beware of his left punch. See more »
Count on Me
Written, Produced, Arranged and Performed by Martin Page
Courtesy of Mercury Records See more »
Despite Some Sports Movie Clichés, "Gladiator" Packs a Great Punch
"Gladiator" is a movie about boxing that came after the "Rocky" franchise seemingly ran its course. Making less that $10 million at the box office upon its release in 1992, it was not a hit, and is now grossly overshadowed by a certain Russell Crowe feature of the same name which you may have seen.
Regardless, despite occasionally wandering into hackneyed sports movie territory and having the same name of an Academy Award winner for Best Picture, "Gladiator" is still worth checking out. Every boxing scene is exciting and very well shot, the acting is good from everyone involved, and the final fight is actually so unpredictable, yet plausible, that it makes one of the most memorable climaxes in sports movie history.
In this movie, Tommy Riley (James Marshall, best known as playing Laura Palmer's rebel motorcycling ex-boyfriend James Hurley on TV's "Twin Peaks") finds himself attending a public high school on Chicago's rough South Side. The only thing that's clear about his background is that his father is struggling to get back on his feet after battling crippling gambling debts.
With Tommy's family owing $1250 to pestering loan sharks, Tommy finds his way into an underground amateur boxing league through bookie Pappy Jack (classic modern tough guy Robert Loggia). Jack works for the equally corrupt boxing promoter Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy).
Yet despite the fact that the league is technically illegal, as it is made up primarily of high school students (albeit most of the actors playing them were actually around 25), the fights draw huge crowds and lots of money. Tommy also finds an honest-to-goodness trainer in Noah (Ossie Davis). Pappy Jack definitely knows Noah, but doesn't seem to catch on that Noah's not one of the corrupt ones, or maybe that's precisely why Noah's working under him.
Tommy also manages to find two friends in this boxing world who also attend the same high school: Cuban-American Romano (Jon Seda), and African-American Abraham Lincoln Haines (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). And yes, there's a girl involved (the very pretty Cara Buono) who tries to dissuade Tommy from fighting. Her name in this movie is Dawn, but I couldn't help but think of another name (ADDRIENNE!).
Gooding would go on to win an Oscar (for "Jerry Maguire" (1996)) not too long after this movie came out, so he is billed first on every video and DVD cover released after 1997. However, Marshall is really the star of this film, and does a better acting job than he did even in "Twin Peaks". Plus, you know he learned his boxing.
I got a little nervous when you see him going into a school full mostly of black and Hispanic students not because I feared for his safety, but because of that tired cliché of the white guy surviving a multiracial climate. Fortunately, this movie didn't make the school seem like a literal jungle, and the offensive black stereotypes were thankfully minimized. In fact, the black bullies with whom Tommy has to deal, the aptly named Spits (T.E. Russell) and Shortcut (Lance Slaughter), made surprisingly complex characters.
I even liked the scene when Marshall aids Gooding's Haines after his being cornered in a fight with the two and their gang, the "Stormtroopers". He laments about being "rescued by the Great White Hope", and it's funny.
So while this film is not perfect, it makes a great boxing movie. It's fight scenes are worth watching, but they actually insert some boxing technique into the film, and incorporate it into the plot. The montages are there too, but what they lack in originality, the final few fights, particularly the very last one, make up for it in uniqueness and excitement. If you are a boxer, this film may even make a great motivational tape, and let you know what the hardest part of the body actually is. The answer will surprise you as much as the last fight will.
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