Spoiler Free
Boxing/ Sports/ Biography/ Drama
Rated 12A

“We both know the name of this game and it certainly isn't pugilism.”

Director Ron Howard has a reputation of delivering solid, historical cinema which entertains and mostly sticks to the facts. That is meant as a compliment; never let the truth get in the way of a good story, someone said somewhere at sometime. Cinderella Man tells of two worlds which still very much collide in boxing- poverty and abundance.

Fighting your way to wealth is the initial ambition of every boxer, and given there's the National Lottery everyone wants wealth. For James Braddock wealth was but a dream, he was fighting for food.

The true story of James Braddock is a tale of have and have not. “The Cinderella Man” Braddock rode the unenviable extremes of both. One of seven children to Irish immigrants, born in 1905, the “Pride of the Irish” (he changed his nom de guerre a few times) retired after 88 fights- an unimaginable amount today except for the more prolific journeymen.

Now, obviously it is easy to read about Braddock’s career on the interweb, but if you don’t know it I urge you not to search it before seeing Cinderella Man. This is not because the film is definitive, but because it is thoroughly engaging and a wonderful boxing film in its own right. The hardships of the great depression (which is a misnomer as I imagine it wasn’t so great at the time) and being both a contender and a punching bag make Jim’s story something else.

Boxing is all about calculated risk, but James Braddock couldn’t afford a calculator, he needed to fight. Cinderella Man follows his story aiming higher than anyone wants him to, and perhaps he should. The clashes out of the ring are just human nature, but nonetheless hard to watch. Just as in real life, there are relationships born of necessity and those born of love.

A sports drama which does sports as well as drama, Cinderella Man doesn’t feel its length. The in the ring action is exhilarating and the narrative emotional and well acted. Russell Crowe as Braddock is joined by Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti and Paddy Considine (read a review of his other boxing film Journeyman here) to name but a few. They all make Cinderella Man more than simply a boxing film and allegory of poverty.

When it comes to life, love is more important for the soul than ambition, but love won’t feed you. Well, not unless you charge for it. I'm skint, for example.

Caring and in some places crushing. Cinderella Man really makes you feel for the characters as well as shake with excitement through its action. One of the best boxing films I’ve ever seen. 9/10


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