(out of 5)
Ron Howard trims the sappy fat off his usual style of ‘inspirational’ filmmaking for an entertaining and heart-warming biography of boxer James Braddock. A popular fighter in the twenties who lost everything with the stock market crash of 1929, Braddock barely subsists in abject poverty with his wife (Renee Zellweger) and children before he starts to claw his way back to the top. His magical recovery in the ring prompts Depression-era spectators to dub him their hero, a title that is threatened considerably when he goes head to head with a killer (Craig Bierko) for a world championship bout. Skillfully edited and featuring a standout performance by Paul Giamatti as Braddock’s agent and trainer, the film is marred only by Howard’s insistence on accompanying emotionally moving plot developments with swelling musical flourishes.
Directed by Ron Howard
Cinematography by Salvatore Totino
Music by Thomas Newman
Production Design by Wynn Thomas
Costume Design by Daniel Orlandi