10 out of 10


A Truly Inspiring American Hero

"The All-American Hero"? Few come even close to the ideal as James J Braddock. Born in America's "holy city" of New York, he rose through the amateur ranks of boxing to become a highly paid professional - all very familiar territory to any of the WWE clowns seen by the boozy brainless spamheads on the back end of any particular weekday evening or a rubbishy "Rocky" remake. For it was the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and his determination when all went against him that was to make Braddock a legend and a recovery that is a true inspiration to us all.

Loosing all his winnings by investing in New York cabs, disaster was followed by catastrophe as he broke his hand and was forced into retirement and abject poverty by those in charge of the game. With Russell Crowe as Braddock, "Cinderella Man" draws out our tears like teeth without anaethetic so painful it is, as the worst years of the Great Depression are lived out in front of us, deprivation beyond our imagination. By his side is always his loving wife, Mae, (Renée Zellweger in arguably her finest role) who has to water down the milk for their children as Jim struggles in vain to work unloading with his broken hand at the docks for enough to pay for food and lodgings in a frozen basement in mid-Winter. Despite all of this, Braddock never looses faith in his "great country of ours", holding onto hope without the slightest in evidence that FDR's "New Dealers" will restore properity to their nation..A man of his honour, he is angered when his son steals from a butchers shop and takes him back to return it even though they have nothing to eat at home and Jim will not claim welfare until, with his children critically ill, he is forced to go,.literally cap in hand, to beg for help, from the same people who closed down his career. Being reminded of the poverty that he has been forced him into, his agent who has all but forgotten about him, pursuades them to let him have one last final fight, but the one they offer is a cruel one: Braddock who has not trained in years, will fight the World's top heavyweight contender, Corn Griffin, a young man built like a tank and needs any easy fight as a warm up for his title bid.

In many ways, "Cinderella Man" is so similar to "Seabiscuit". Anyone can fight for a bright, shiny new future, but the starved and aging Braddock was a man fighting for his kids' next meal. Instantly, Braddock's determination struck a chord with the American public, waiting in the queues at the soup kitchens. Here was their hero. It was if they were in the ring with him each fight as Braddock tries to win back a future of food and a stable place for his family. As Mae puts it, "Every time you get hit, feels like I'm getting' hit too."

The attention to detail is amazing, fully recreating all the aspects and atmosphere of the 1930's with near faultless perfection, but "Cinderella Man" is a delight above all for the script of Cliff HolIingsworth, a first timer, who had as much struggle to the have his first draft even read by an agent as Braddock himself and only succeeded in the end when his friend had to set up an agency just to sell it. In particular, it is Cliff's supporting characters that give such powerful comparisons and real have a deep impact on us. There's Paddy Considine as Mike Wilson, a greedy ex-stockbroker who has lost, not only his money, future and home, but also his faith in life. After turning to the bottle and beating his wife, Mike becomes a convert to deadend street of Socialism and revolution. Likewise, Braddock must ultimately take on Max Baer to secure a future for his wfe and family. With a sledgehammer punch that has already killed two previous better opponents in the ring, Baer is everything Braddock is not - a self-centred, arrogant womaniser who revels in the pain of others, played by Broadway star, Craig Bierko. Meanwhile, the shy and retiring Braddock, in a truly awe inspiring scene, goes to the Welfare Office to PAY BACK all the cash they had given him, believing, if your country has helped you, you should help it when you can. And all the time, there's Braddock's agent, Joe Gould, Paul Giamatti at his very best, convincing the authorities to let Braddock fight with "a mouth that should be put in a zoo" as boxing supremo, Jimmy Johnson (Bruce McGill) puts it, a man barely visible behind his fat cigar.

The film sounds schmultzy and in a way it is, but it truly works. For it is not primarily a movie about boxing, indeed, someone who hates boxing will love it as it is a story about never giving up. After undeservedly loosing badly at the box office, perhaps it will shine through at the Oscars and on the rentals market. They say American life is a one act play, but maybe director Ron Howard and his team shouldn't loose faith. Cinderella Man proved it wrong.

An absolute knockout

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett