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Russell Crowe
as Jim Braddock

Renée Zellweger
as Mae Braddock

Paul Giamatti
as Joe Gould

Paddy Considine
as Mike Wilson

Craig Bierko
as Max Baer

Written by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman

Directed by Ron Howard

Running Time: 2:24

Rated PG-13
for intense boxing violence and some language.



Cinderella Man was an almost flawless movie that is sure to bring home a lot of gold come awards season.


James J. Braddock was a contender for some boxing gold back in the late 1920s. He had a shot at the light heavyweight champ Tommy Loughran but lost the match, and thus started his fall from grace. The Depression hit and Braddock's boxing abilities also suffered due to various injuries. By the early 30s his career had hit rock bottom, and his home life was on the verge of collapse. He and his wife Mae, and their three kids, all lived in a tiny shack, unable to pay the heating and electric bills, and forced to add water to the tiny amount of milk they had available. Braddock's lowest point was having to get assistance not only from the state of New Jersey, but to go beg for help from his old boxing group. But he was a proud man and if that's what it took to keep his family together, that was what he'd have to do. By chance his old ringman and trainer, Joe Gould, was able to put together a one shot only fight for Braddock against the number two contender to the heavyweight belt. Braddock shocked everyone with that fight, but his greatest feat was still to come. Pushing aside the naysayers and critics, James J. Braddock was able to climb back into the ring, long past what should have been his prime, beat some of the top fighters in the industry and then, defeat the monster Max Baer in one of the greatest upsets in boxing history.


Talk about a film with a pedigree. The Oscar winning combination of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer directing/producing Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger and then you throw in Paul Giamatti who should have been at least nominated for an Oscar last year. Add an uplifting true story about a man who was on top of the world, fell to rock bottom, then fought his way back to the top, and you have a can't miss film. Or, you have the chance to completely fall on your face and make a movie that isn't nearly as good as it should be (I'm thinking of The Terminal, which had many of the same elements but had really bad moments.) In this case, Cinderella Man turned out to be the former; a fantastic film that was extremely well written and all the actors involved turned out terrific performances.

I've always been on the fence about Russell Crowe. I could never decide if I liked him or not and I think some of that had to do with what I knew about his personal life. I'm still not sure what I think of him personally, but with Cinderella Man I've decided that I like him as an actor. I don't remember the last time I was so invested in a character. I could feel every emotion he felt throughout the film, but it was one scene that blew me away. It's the scene where he has to go to New York to the old boxing crew and beg them for money. Right at the end, after some of the people have given him money, he spots his old friend Joe off to the side. He goes up to Joe and there are tears in his eyes, but he refuses to completely break down. Braddock was a strong man, both physically and emotionally and you can see how hard this all was on him but he refused to give up. Seeing the tears in his eyes while asking his friend for money was heartbreaking and was the best acting moment in the film.

When you make a film that has such an uplifting story, there is always the chance that it'll cross over into the world of cheesiness. The best thing about Cinderella Man is that it never went into that world. There was a line or two that was over the top ('You're the champion of my heart') but the writers did a tremendous job making sure that things stayed believable. I don't know how much of the movie was fact and how much was creative license but I never felt like my emotions were being manipulated. Everyone gave such an even performance and no one went over the top. Renée Zellweger's character was the one that could have put the movie over the edge, but no matter what happened, she never lost her cool, even when she had to run outside and cry. She was scared for her husband, especially going into the final fight, but she remained calm and collected. And Paul Giamatti's character was a great foil for Crowe. He had all the comedic lines yet still held the respect of Braddock.

Then there were the boxing scenes. Obviously in this story, boxing is a key element and the fights were shot extremely well. It wasn't like a Rocky movie where every punch sounded like a gun shot, and it didn't show people beating the hell out of each other non-stop. It looked and felt like an old school boxing match. A lot of tie-ups, some good one-two punches, and believable injuries, like breaking your hand on someone's head and having it affect you. There were of course some brutal scenes with some sever close-ups of people getting hit, and even one shot of someone dying in the right, but they flowed with the movie instead of being put in there for shock value. I believed Crowe as a boxer and I loved Craig Bierko as Max Baer. Baer was an animal in the ring and was as cocky as they come. He felt as if fighting a has-been like Braddock was beneath him and he held on to that belief throughout the entire fight. It was only in the last couple of rounds that fear started to set in and even then the movie didn't fall into the cheese factor. Had you not known the story going in, up until the decision was announced, you were wondering if they were really going to give Braddock the gold.


So overall, I would highly recommend everyone go out and see Cinderella Man. It is easily the best movie of the year so far, and one of the best movies I've seen in the last decade.

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Cinderella Man : James Braddock,
Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset
in Boxing History

$16.32 Hardcover

A Beautiful Mind

$10.38 DVD

Braddock : The Rise of the Cinderella Man

$9.95 Paperback

Cinderella Man:
The Shooting Script

$12.89 Paperback
reviewed 05/30/05

© 2005 Wolfpack Productions

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