A Fighting Man Review

Posted: June 20, 2014 in Drama, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

ff-00003949-im-02landscape900x506An air of melancholy pervades A Fighting Man, a boxing movie that may do more to kill the sport than mixed martial arts fighting. The sadness does not come so much from the plot as from the cast. The irony of bringing once-great actors into a third-rate feature about a washed-up fighter seems lost on director/screenwriter Damian Lee. And while the parallels between how boxing and Hollywood both exploit stars well past their primes in order to squeeze out a few extra dollars is lost in the production, they are painfully obvious to those who watch this film.

James Caan and Louis Gossett Jr. have over 110 years in the entertainment business between the two of them, but it’s been 42 years since Caan received an Oscar nomination for The Godfather and 32 years since Gossett Jr. won the Acamedy Award for An Officer and An Gentleman. Like the main character in A Fighting Man, they’ve been lured into one more match for a quick buck, and while they show traces of greatness, their skills have eroded, and they can no longer deliver the knockout peformances that were once routine.

The supporting cast does not fare much better. Michael Ironside, a longtime fan favorite from movies like Starship Troopers, is reduced literally and figuratively to carrying the spit bucket. Famke Janssen, the former model and star of the original X-Men movies, has lost her punch at 50 and doesn’t have the acting chops to fall back on. Dominic Purcell in the title role acquits himself with dignity, and Sheila McCarthy as his dying mother is also fine, but the situation is so cliched that it feels like a colorized version of a bad 40’s movie.

Purcell is Sailor O’Connor (um, bad 40’s movie enough for you?), an ex-fighter who has not been in the ring for four years. His only accomplishment was that he was never knocked down. Other than that, there seems to be broad agreement – at least between his mother and his former trainer (Caan) – that he was not particularly good. Mom’s dying, by the way, and her last wish is to take a trip back to the Old Country (as people in bad 40’s movies referred to Europe). A promoter named Fast Eddie needs a hook to sell a fight with up-and-coming Solomon King who is trained by Cubby (Gossett, Jr.), so he goes to Sailor and offers enough money to get Mom her trip.

But wait! There’s more!

An Irish priest. An expectant mother. A shamed woman. A tragic past. A guy walking off the set of a porn film.

Okay, so that last one is not so bad 40’s movie, but the rest…

A Fighting Man never had a fighting chance at being a good movie, but any possibility of it being entertaining was snuffed out by the decision to start the film at round five of the climactic fight and then telling the story through a series of flashbacks. The device did not work in the Kevin Costner film For Love of the Game, and it does not work here. Rob a sports movie of the natural rhythm and tension of the event, and you lose suspense and momentum. There is no build-up to the fight. There is simply the fight and a series of cinematic footnotes as to why it matters.

Turns out it really doesn’t.

One star.


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