Unlike Rocky Balboa, he is real. Russel Crowe depicts a boxer from the early year of the previous century, Jim Braddock in his desperate attempt to keep the family together with the power of his fists. No, he does not batter them into submission, but engages in boxing matches to gain fortune necessary to put food on the table.
Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A beautiful mind) teams up with Russel Crowe (Gladiator, LA Confidential) and Renee Zellweger (Chicago, Jerry Maguire) and takes us back in the age of the Great depression that crippled the US economy. There`s the hunger, the poverty and a guy`s promise to his kids that they`ll never be separated and that he`ll keep them together. His career in boxing is ended when he breaks an arm (in three different places) and he is then forced to work as a dock worker. Later on, he is given a second chance to fight against a champion who is expected to win. Jim pulls off the impossible and beats the shit out of the guy, winning the match, turning himself into a legend, a myth, a hero for the poor. After a couple of matches, he takes on the champion, an arrogant and snoty Max Bear, played by Craig Berko, who gives an out-standing performance. He wins the match and the story ends with a positive note.
Ron Howard manages to handle the ropes pretty good, showing us the troubled times and the state these people had to live in. Although slightly pathetic at some occasions, the movies manages to deliver the punch, inside and outside the ring. The fights are well-choreographed and the camera work is spectacular. Slow-motion with a certain x-ray vision, showing us the effects of a certain punch. The only bad side of the whole movie is a character`s wife, played poorly by Rennee Zellweger, which does not convince the audience and turns out to be yet another moaning-pathetic-second-grade wife character.
But in the end, the overall experience is great, as the movie does not slow down but keeps its pace at a normal speed. The scenes are well thought-out and the music done by Thomas Newman is well embedded. In short, it`s a happy version of “A million dollar baby” which keeps the viewer attracted right till the last bell.