Being a fan of both boxing and Ron Howard, I saw this movie a few years back when it first hit theaters. At the time, I found it enjoyable but wasn’t entirely impressed, which made watching it on the new blu-ray format that much more enjoyable. The film again showcases how talented Russell Crowe is an actor as well as Howard’s innate ability to tell a story. Though not a perfect film, its one of those stories that you find yourself truly engaged in, rooting for the characters, and truly hating the antagonist.
The film is based on the true story of James Braddock, a 1930’s boxer who is forced into an early retirement after a hand injury proves serious enough to end his career. Because boxers back then didn’t make the millions that they do now, he had to return to some sort of work to provide for his wife (played wonderfully by Renee Zellweger) and his four kids. Since this was during the great depression, it proved even harder for him to find steady work and come up with the money needed for rent and food. Howard does an amazing job here detailing the hardships and struggles that the average American faced during these times and you really do begin to feel for this family.
Fairly early into his retirement Braddock is visited by his former manger (Paul Giamatti) and offered his chance to get back his livelihood he so reluctantly let go off some time earlier. You see, fortune has struck and there is a cancellation on an upcoming boxing card. Against all odds, the out of shape, broken down Braddock begins his journey toward redemption and happiness. During these harsh times, Braddock gave the public something to root for- a man, overcoming all obstacles and looking for his comeback. James is immediately a celebrity among his peers and begins his quest towards achieving his dreams.
Though this film sometimes attempts to manipulate the viewer by pulling on every heartstring it can, I must say that it is done fantastically. Perhaps it was the way each actor was able to craft their performance into such a believable portrayal of people suffering for the depression era. Perhaps it was the amazing score that seemed to drip heart ache and amplify every dramatic moment of the film. Either way, Ron Howard achieved his vision of what this film should be. We are constantly rooting Braddock for two reasons. First, we all love seeing that person that was counted out come back and do something miraculous. Second, it is obvious how much Braddock cares for his family, and his newly garnered accomplishments aid him in providing for those he loves most. Though heavy and very dramatic at times (Braddock’s life is entirely humorless) this heartfelt film still feels relevant to me. Plus, it’s nice to see the depression era in blu-ray.
Film Rating: B plus
Since this film had three different DVD releases, there are a ton of amazing special features here:
Audio Commentaries by the director and writer. These detail everything about the film and are some of the most interesting, informative commentary tracks I have ever heard.
Deleted/extended scenes: nothing revolutionary here as all the scenes are decent, but don’t prove to be necessary for the final product.
“Becoming Jim Braddock”: this feature was awesome as Russell Crowe spoke about his training and movements he practiced to truly embody James Braddock
“The Fight Card”: this feature detailed the entire casting process, from lead actors to the smaller supporting roles. Another great feature.
“Pre-Fight Preparations”: four production featurettes focusing the screenplay, set design, clothing, etc. Another great addition.
“Lights, Camera, Action”: this feature focused on Ron Howard and his use of training and research to make this film successful. Another fantastic feature.
“For the Record”: the trainers take the stage and talk about the training of Crowe. Not as engrossing as it could have been.
“The Man, the Movie, the Legend”: this feature shows Howard explaining the phenomenon of Jim Braddock and his relevance. A decent addition, but could have been better.
“Jim Braddock”: this was basically an introduction to some of the family members of the real Jim Braddock. It was nice to see how closely involved and detailed Howard’s vision was.
“The Sound of the Bell”: detailed account of the score and orchestra of the film.
“The Human Face of the Depression”: Howard gives a historical overview of the depression and its effect on everyday people. Nothing you haven’t seen here.
“Braddock vs. Baer”: Awesome archived footage of the actual fight.
“Ringside Seats”: various people from the crew sit around and talk about the actual fight between the two.
As you can see, enough features here to last you entire day.
Special Features Rating: A
Overall Rating: A