CINDERELLA MAN: DVD
Cinderella Man is inspired by the true story of depression-era boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe), a once-promising light heavyweight boxer forced into retirement after a broken hand dented his progress. Braddock takes daily dockside jobs to support his wife, Mae (Renee Zellweger) and their children, while never totally abandoning his dream of boxing again. After a last-minute cancellation, Braddock's manager (Paul Giamatti) talks the promoters into letting Jim back in the ring against the second-ranked world contender; to everyone's amazement, he wins in the third round. Despite being pounds lighter than his opponents and repeated injuries to his hands, Braddock continues to fight and win. Carrying on his shoulders the hopes and dreams of the poor and disenfranchised, Braddock, dubbed the Cinderella Man, faces his toughest challenge in Max Baer (Craig Bierko), the heavyweight champion of the world, renowned for having killed two men in the ring.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As writer Damon Runyon observed in 1936, there's no human interest story in the history of boxing to compare with Braddock's. Since then, of course, there's been Ali, but Ron Howard does justice to Braddock with Russell Crowe's predictably compleat immersion into the persona of Braddock - or at least a credible version of it.
Given the substance of the story, it's a matter of telling it well, and Howard keeps the focus on the Braddock family as it struggles with the effects of the depression and the personal drama that engulfs Braddock as a natural boxer denied his lifeblood - as well as his livelihood.
The emotional language is beautifully developed in cinematic terms, and while the depression always evokes deep pathos, Howard edges away from mawkishness. Crowe's absolute commitment and his absence of vanity (reminiscent of Toni Collette) ensures a powerhouse performance - without theatrical artifice. Renee Zellweger is excellent as his loving, supporting and at times terrified wife, and the children are beautifully directed.
Scenes such as the kids listening to the radio on the cellar steps, against mum's orders, to the potentially deadly climactic fight against Max Baer (a top turn from Craig Bierko), are superbly realised. Indeed, the fight scenes are bruisingly well crafted, so much so that it is impossible to imagine how they are filmed, except for real.
There is pain and elation, danger and courage, love and decency, pride and desperation strewn throughout Braddock's story - and we absorb it all. The film's production design and music help create a melancholy mood that is both evocative of period and of the inner journey of the Braddock family. Cinderella Man is without a doubt a 'contender'.
Footage of the real Braddock/Baier fight is featured on the DVD with comments from director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and novelist Norman Mailer. There are also deleted scenes with commentary by Howard.
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CINDERELLA MAN: DVD (M)
CAST: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddu Considine, Bruce McGill, David Hubbard, Connor Price, Ariel Waller, Patrick Louis, Rosemarie DeWitt
PRODUCER: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Penny Marshall
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
SCRIPT: Cliff Hollingsworth, Akiva Goldsman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Salvatore Totino
EDITOR: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wynn Thomas
RUNNING TIME: 144 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 22, 2005
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes with commentary by Ron Howard; Ringside seats
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
DVD RELEASE: January 25, 2006