Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Year 8, Day 320 - 11/15/16 - Movie #2,490

BEFORE: In a way, my blog is like a little lodge in the Catskills, I'll be shutting down for the season after tonight - but I will re-open for a week, just before Christmas, because there's always a few hunters out in the woods that need a place to stay during duck season.  (Or is it rabbit season?)  Now I need some time to celebrate Thanksgiving, go to my high-school reunion, get some Christmas shopping done, and probably bail a few relatives out of jail so they can celebrate the holidays.  Hey, you never know.

The watchlist stands at 118 films, which is still above the low point of 103 (a month or so ago) but is less than the number of films when I went on break last november (130, I think).  So some progress has been made, but the list will no doubt grow again over the next month. 

Jake Gyllenhaal carries over from "Everest", and let's hope things work out better for him in this film.  Based on the trailer I saw a couple years ago, I'm not getting my hopes up.

THE PLOT: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

AFTER: I've watched my share of boxing films over the course of this project, just last year I watched 6 in a row ("Grudge Match", "Undisputed", "Play it to the Bone", etc.) and I know they tend to follow a formula.  Boxer loses, boxer is down on his luck, boxer trains and fights his way back.  Throw in some family or relationship drama and a crusty old trainer, and you've got yourself a movie.  I thought I was DONE, but every time I think I'm done with boxing, Hollywood releases another one.  ("Bleed For This", in theaters now...)  Plus, I still have to watch "Creed", I wasn't able to schedule that one on the 2016 calendar. 

So I wish that something was different and unique about this film, but it follows the same old Hollywood boxing formula, just amped up to high volume.  The family drama is increased by tragedy (which again, was TOTALLY telegraphed in the film's trailer, I don't know why anyone would let such an important spoiler into a preview clip...) and then worse, our boxer is then declared an unfit parent, based on both his recreational behavior and the fact that he beats people up for a living.  

Boxing is still a thing, even though we know it's no good for the participants, yet it still seems to be our country's second most popular blood sport (after the presidential election, of course...).  I try very hard to look for some form of metaphor in a boxing film, but most of the time, it's just not there.  Is it about the everyman's struggle, man's inhumanity to man, or the futility of life?  Nope, usually it's just about two guys pounding on each other. 

I can tell that there was SUPPOSED to be some kind of learning experience for Billy Hope - the loss of his wife and daughter was intended as some kind of wake-up call, a sign that he was on the wrong track and needed to make some changes in his life.  But rather than take up an honest profession, he just learns how to be a better boxer.  Umm, considering how close he already was to being permanently damaged by boxing, that shouldn't count as a helpful solution.  Being part of the boxing promotion machine should have been seen as part of his problem (I'll explain in a bit...) and there should have been something better for him to do than to get right back into that world, as soon as possible.  

So, that leads me to two NITPICK POINTS, which I believe are connected, and in both cases they relate to parts of the story that are cliched, seen all the time in movies, but when you stop and think about them, they make little sense.  The first relates to boxing technique (and again, I've seen so many boxing movies now, I'm pretty much qualified as an expert on the sport...) - we're led to believe that Billy Hope had a "bad" boxing style, because he tended to let himself get hit a lot, which would then make him mad enough to come back and win the fight.  But, at the same time, his record was 43-0.  However you rate him, that's a successful career - so to tear him down and then say he needs to become a better fighter through proper mechanics - WHY?  Whatever he was doing before, right or wrong, it was working.  

Now, to be fair, there's a suggestion that some of his fights might have been fixed, and of course there's the possibility that if he stays on that track, he's going to suffer brain damage a lot sooner than you might think.  But a little more explanation would have gone a long way here, for the people who don't completely understand boxing.  For the layman, a 43-0 record seems very good, and the need to change his fighting style may not seem very justified. 

This brings me to NITPICK POINT #2 - his finances, which represent a riches-to-rags story, for dramatic purposes.  But again, this makes little sense.  Even if a boxer gets banned from boxing for a year, that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to go bankrupt and lose his house.  To have his accountant come to him and tell him that he's out of money, behind on his taxes, and in danger of getting his house repossessed - it never should have come to this point.  This is exactly the kind of situation that a competent accountant is there to prevent, so I can only allow this if his accountant is terrible, or is cheating him somehow.  

For example, how is it that with his money, he's still making mortgage payments on his house?  Let's say he made $30 million from his first big fight, a competent accountant would have advised him to put aside half of that money for taxes, leaving $15 million, and he could have bought a house outright for $10 million, leaving $5 million to invest, or to live on until the next payday.  Why would anyone with that kind of money get a mortgage, which involves paying for the house three times over, when you calculate all of the interest?  

And if there's a year where he's not going to make any income, there are things that can be done to off-set this.  It sounds like he's got some back taxes that need to be paid - which again, should have been avoided by a competent accountant, but let's just say for now - if he's got an outstanding debt from a couple years of returns, he could take a loss for the current year, with no income, and thus the refund from one year would balance out the debt owed from the others.  So he's either getting some appallingly bad financial advice, or the screenwriter knows nothing about filing taxes.  

The suggestion to sell a few of his cars makes a little more sense - I mean, if he sells them at a loss he could get a tax break for that, then use the income to settle his tax debt.  Or if he auctions them off for high price he'll have to pay taxes on the profit, but that's for the current year, while he uses the money to pay the previous year's debts.  It's not exactly solving the problem, just moving it, but by then he could be back in boxing again - it's still better than losing the house.  Even filing for personal bankruptcy would be preferable to losing the house and all of its contents, why wasn't that an option?

I will admit that I fell asleep while watching the climactic boxing scene - which is not usually a good sign.  I woke up, got back to that scene, and fell asleep again.  I toyed with the idea of NOT watching the last 5 minutes, because it was blatantly obvious how it was going to turn out.  But I watched the ending in the morning, just to be sure.  

Also starring Rachel McAdams (last seen in "Aloha"), Forest Whitaker (last seen in "Vision Quest"), Oona Laurence, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (last seen in "The Prince"), Miguel Gomez, Naomie Harris (last seen in "Spectre"), Skylan Brooks (last seen in "Seven Pounds"), Danny Henriquez, Rita Ora (last seen in "Fifty Shades of Grey"), Victor Ortiz (last seen in "The Expendables 3"), Beau Knapp (last seen in "Run All Night"), Malcolm Mays, Clare Foley (last seen in "Win Win"), Jim Lampley (last seen in "Play it to the Bone", but darn if he isn't in just about every boxing movie...)

RATING: 5 out of 10 supervised visits

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