Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1972. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Rastar Pictures. Screenplay by Leonard Gardner, based on his novel. Cinematography by Conrad L. Hall. Produced by John Huston, Ray Stark. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Production Design by Richard Sylbert. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins. Film Editing by Walter Thompson. Academy Awards 1972.
Atmosphere overrules plot in this unjustifiably forgotten minor classic by John Huston. Stacy Keach is terrific as a has-been boxer who meets young up and comer Jeff Bridges and suggests he take on his own former trainer. Inspired by the successful relationship he creates, Keach re-enters the competitive world of boxing himself but is hampered by his age, his destructive relationship with a charismatic barfly (Susan Tyrrell) and his inability to successfully hold down a job. The goal here is not a big, inspiring grand prize, but just the opportunity to keep going in what is a highly watchable, low-key charmer. Keach is superb, while Tyrell is excellent in an Oscar-nominated performance as the damaged woman with whom Keach takes up, but all the performances are standouts here, and the mood that pervades over all of it is a great tribute to Huston’s ability to make something rich out of even the simplest story.