New York Magazine


Cinderella Man
  Release Date: 05/29/05 (Future Release)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Connor Price, Craig Bierko, Paul Giamatti

Director: Ron Howard

Rating: (PG-13)
  Drama, Action/Adventure
  Running Time
  144 min
  Universal Pictures
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The toughest thing facing a director making a boxing movie is doing something fresh with the genre. If Martin Scorsese reinvented the way bouts are shot (with grainy, brutal beauty in Raging Bull) and Robert Rossen established 58 years ago the tone pugilistic parables should take (gruff and cynical in Body and Soul), director Ron Howard has found his own solution and created a truly rousing period piece—start counting now how many critics use the term “knockout” in their reviews. In retelling the true story of a Depression-era comeback miracle—Jim Braddock’s thumping defeat of Max Baer in 1935—Howard works with his Beautiful Mind star Russell Crowe. This time, playing it pug-ugly and downtrodden, Crowe lends Braddock a beautiful disposition. He’s in love with his wife (Renée Zellweger, glowingly transcending what could have been a stock supportive-wife role) and his three adorable children. Yet Braddock knows that the boxing life is punishing and corrupt—and whenever he doubts it, the ever-inventive Paul Giamatti, as his snap-talking trainer, is around to remind him.

Craig Bierko is hilariously malevolent as the boastful champ Baer; one of the great pleasures of Cinderella Man is that you can cheer on Braddock without reservation, but the movie is so nuanced and twistily plotted that you never feel like a manipulated chump for doing so.

If the title seems sissified, well, it’s what Damon Runyon really dubbed Braddock, and the writers give Zellweger a nice moment to crinkle her button nose upon first hearing the sobriquet and say, “Kinda girly, isn’t it?” Believe me: Girls, boys, men, and women are all going to be cheering lustily and weeping happily over Cinderella Man. It’s a knockou—I mean, it’s a terrific movie. — Reviewed by Ken Tucker, New York Magazine