13 posts categorized "Sports"

August 13, 2013


The Good SonNoted ‘80s era lightweight boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is the subject of a passionate and stylishly composed documentary that allows the charismatic champion from Youngstown, Ohio to tell his story of tremendous victories and terrible losses. This narrative admirably transcends the 20th century immigrant narrative template, which is all but forgotten now that voyeurism is valued higher than historic relevance.

Let's get the obvious first question out of the way: Ray Mancini adopted his dad’s boxing name “Boom Boom” with a dream of living up to family tradition.

Anyone who has heard Warren Zevon’s haunting song “Boom Boom Mancini” (from his “Sentimental Hygiene” album) knows that Mancini “was responsible for the death of Du Koo Kim.” But few listeners know about the circumstances of the 1982 fight that changed the rules of boxing forever — fights were reduced from 15 to 12 rounds as a result of the Mancini/Kim bout that left Du Koo Kim with a blood clot in his brain, which eventually killed him.

Director Jesse James Miller compiles interviews with Mancini's neighbors, friends, priests, family members, cops, and boxing luminaries to explain how a kid from a Sicilian working-class family worked diligently to follow in his father’s footsteps as a pro boxer, struggling in the shadow of his older boxer brother Lenny. Mancini biographer Mark Kriegel adds profound insights with a healthy dose of editorial veracity.

Youngstown, Ohio-born actor Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family”) recounts following his friend Raymond’s career as a hometown boxing phenomenon. O’Neill explicates the mob-ruled cultural landscape of Youngstown, where a steel-mill worker could raise a family and have a secure working-class lifestyle. But if a guy wanted to move up and “swim with the sharks,” then he'd “better be a shark.”

Boom boom mancini

Such are the social circumstances that put the 21-year-old Boom Boom Mancini in the respectful orbit of such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rourke, and Sylvester Stalone — Mancini’s star burned bright and the future seemed to hold all that fortune favors. Was Stalone’s “Rocky” based on Raymond Mancini? I think you know the answer.

However undone by a hypocritical media and a corrupt boxing system, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is revealed as more than merely a survivor. It would spoil the impact of the documentary’s perfect arc to describe the essential aspect of the Mancini/Kim narrative that brings it all home. Suffice it to say that “The Good Son” is one of those documentaries that could easily slip under the public radar. With so few “stand-up” guys left in the world, it’s refreshing to meet up with Boom Boom after all these years and discover an admirable man with all of the hard-earned self-respect that anyone could hope to achieve. Don’t miss “The Good Son.”  

Not Rated. 90 mins. (B+) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)

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November 26, 2012

Waiting for Lightning

Waiting for LightningPutting a face to the name of gifted skateboarder Danny Way who jumped over the Great Wall of China in 2005, documentarian Jacob Rosenberg gets inside his subject's ambitious personality. As a child the charismatic Way suffered a hardscrabble home life. Way’s response was to decide to become one of the best skateboarders in the world. You don’t have to be a sports fan or care about skateboarding to revel in Way's unfathomable sense of balance and technical skill on a skateboard. Concise interview clips with family members, friends, and peers like Tony Hawk and Laird Hamilton fill out Way’s absorbing journey to performing one of the most mind-bending stunts you could ever imagine. Not many Americans have their names engraved on China’s Great Wall. Daredevil Danny Way certainly deserves the honor. Get stoked.

Rated PG-13. 80 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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December 01, 2010

The Fighter

Fighter David O. Russell's reputation as a distinctive filmmaker may be about to be restored. The director of such notable films as "Spanking the Monkey," "Flirting with Disaster," and "Three Kings" lost credibility due to his obscenely dull and overrated 2004 film "I Heart Huckabees." Part biopic and part untraditional character study, "The Fighter" is an immaculately conceived film about two lower-class brothers whose common ground unites them through personal struggles. Based on real-life sibling boxers Mickey Ward and Dicky Eklund, the movie, set in Lowell, Massachusetts, examines problematic familial loyalties. Mickey (Mark Wahlberg) is a junior welterweight contender in a family boxing business run by his busy-body mother Alice (Melissa Leo). Micky's older half-brother and personal trainer Dicky (amazingly played by the estimable Christian Bale) is a crack addict and former fighter who carries around his reputation for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard during a 1978 match as an eternal badge of honor. (However, the tight-knit community of Lowell is divided over whether Sugar Ray tripped or got knocked down by Dicky). Russell opens the film with an intimate direct-to-camera bit of docu-styled living room exposition which introduces the strung-out Dicky and the ambitious Mickey as birds of related but clearly different feathers. Following a break from boxing due to a string of losses, the nearly over-the-hill Mickey attempts to stage a last-chance comeback with a fight arranged by his manager mom. Romantically intrigued by local bartender Charlene (Amy Adams), Mickey hopes to manipulate a boxing win into some kind of normal life for himself. The trouble is that Mickey's bevy of sisters and greedy mother are micromanaging control freaks. Thanks to Charlene's blunt honesty Mickey stakes out his own plan for boxing success, an approach that owes more to his wayward brother's influence than he knows. "The Fighter" is definitely not your run-of-the-mill biopic. There's a gritty rawness in the portrayal of marginalized people used to fighting for everything they have. Christian Bale's otherworldly performance serves as a narrative randomizer that surprisingly anchors the drama. "The Fighter" is one of the best films of 2010.

Rated R. 115 mins. (A) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)

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