Cinderella Man (2005)

Reviewer: Shannon H.


The sport of boxing has been the subject of several films.  Raging Bull, the Rocky series, Million Dollar Baby, Ali and Somebody Up There Likes Me are just a handful of spar-and-jar related cinema. The idea of the underdog boxer championing over the favored victor is not new. We've seen it in Rocky where Rocky Balboa goes glove to glove with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed. And it still exists in Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, based on the true story of famous boxer, James J. Braddock.

James "Jim" Braddock (Russell Crowe) is a popular heavyweight boxer. In 1928, he is the star in his sport.  He has money, fame, prestige, and not a care in the world other than for the love of the ring and his family. Then came 1929, the year of the Great Depression where many wealthy people lost everything they owned and became impoverished. Jim Braddock was one of them. Four years after the Great Depression, Jim was struggling to keep his family to survive after some failure in the boxing ring. His faithful wife Mae (Renee Zellweger), his three kids, and God were the only things that mattered in his life. Going from riches to rags humbled Jim as he realized how hard it was to find work and money in the early 1930s. It was frustrating just to stand at the gates to a dock and hope that he would be picked to work on the waterfront for the day. After a broken right hand, Jim knew he had to find money fast or otherwise his family would starve because it would hurt him to work as a longshoreman. He struggled with it by hiding his cast under his coat sleeve and trying to work as hard as he can without crippling his hand.

Jim's success as a laborer was just barely getting him by as he had to beg for help from his former boxing agents for some sustenance all while being slightly supported on government aid. Jim finally gets a second chance: his manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) gives him another big break to step into the ring to fight again for $250. His second chance turns into victory as Jim becomes the Jim Braddock that everyone knew and loved years before. Fight after fight, he moves his way up to the final championship round with Max Baer (Craig Bierko), a boxer with a smart aleck attitude and a mouth to match. Max has been known to be a nasty fighter, killing two of his opponents in the ring. Mae, Jim's wife, is now begging her husband to call off the fight for fear that he could get killed in the ring. Mike Wilson (Paddy Considine), one of Jim's friends, was recently killed during a scuffle in a New York ghetto and Mae fears that the same could happen to Jim. 

The film is rated PG-13 for language and violence. There are seven uses of a**, two uses of bast***, seven uses of b****, one use of d***, ten uses of s***, nine uses of "hell," and 29 harsh abuses of deity (GD, and "Jesus Christ"). Jim and Mae sensually make out a few times. There is also a mild, obscure reference to masturbation. Max Baer is seen in a hotel room wearing a robe and his underwear with several scantily clad women in the background, implying that they had been sleeping together. Max is often seen with two women on each arm when in public. The violence is standard boxing fare. Men are seeing knocking each other senseless in the boxing ring. While Jim is watching a replay of one of Max Baer's deadly matches, Max is seen killing a man in the first round of fighting by a single blow to the head. The faces of boxers almost always have blood on their faces from broken noses. A boxer punches his opponent in the crotch twice (it's an illegal hit in boxing). 

Cinderella Man, much like Ron Howard's previous inspirational success A Beautiful Mind, has a great deal of moral content in it, despite the language. Being in an Irish-Catholic family, Jim Braddock always tries to maintain his faith in God when he is struggling to keep his family from going homeless. The priest in the diocese offers his prayers for Jim and even turns the radio on to the fight during church (Jim and the priest used to be sparring buddies "back in the day"). Jay Braddock, Jim's son, had stolen some salami from the butcher shop in order to help his family and make sure he isn't "taken away." After some scolding from his parents, Jim drags his son to the butcher to give back the food and apologize and also to assure him that he would never be taken away. Jim tells his son that, even if things get bad, it isn't wise to take what does not belong to oneself.  he Bible makes it clear that, under no circumstances, stealing is prohibited. When Jim is slated to fight the nasty Max Baer, he wonders if it's worth it to risk his life for the heavyweight title. 


Those who were impoverished by the Great Depression looked to Jim as their inspiration because he had gone from riches to rags and back to riches again (earning him the nickname "Cinderella Man") and Jim felt that he had to fight because if he didn't, he'd be letting down those who admired him. When Mankind fell into sin, God could have given up on us but He didn't bother. He loved us too much. When Christ was to be crucified, He could have backed out because it would cost Him His life. But Christ never backed out and chose to sacrifice His life so that those who were inspired by Him may get saved and have eternal life with Him in Heaven. Although Jim Braddock is not God, he is like Him in the fact that he never threw in the towel to stay alive for his family. He felt that giving up meant failure and that working hard meant success, even if it didn't bring home a championship.

I really loved this film. It is a great piece of work . Russell Crowe never ceases to amaze me. Renee Zellweger is perfect as Jim's concerned and loving wife. There are no miscasts in this movie. Paul Giamatti stole the show as Joe Gould, Jim's boxing manager/agent. My main complaint of this film is the language. Another complaint is the jumpy camera shots in the fighting scenes. I understand it's part of the film but it nearly gave me vertigo just by trying to follow them. But it's a wonderful film that will definitely have some Oscar nominations in the future. If you loved Rocky and Raging Bull, you will definitely love Cinderella Man.

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