The film is supposedly based on a true story, and something of a documentary approach is taken here, with a lot of handheld camera and natural sound + lighting. That's something of a mixed blessing: when it works, it gives a raw, genuine feel to proceedings, but when it doesn't, this feels like a bad amateur dramatic production. The film centers on Ed Jones (Boyd), a former amateur boxing champ talked into returning to the sport in unsanctioned bouts around Oklahoma, and follows the ups and downs of his life under trainer Arliss King (Richardson), both in and outside the ring. Marriage; kids; terminal illness; you know the sort of thing.
You'll recognise a few people here, albeit none of them to much purpose: friend of the director Busey turns up as a rival promoter, former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks plays a trainer (I still remember listening in the middle of the night to the radio when he beat Ali in 1978) while, perhaps most oddly, former ice-queen Tonya Harding runs a restaurant; she doesn't disgrace herself. However, the boxing scenes in the film are horribly choppy and disjointed, while the ending occurs at an unsatisfactory point, requiring captions to tidy up, including little things like, oh, the imminent death of one character in a road accident. It's clear they didn't have much money to spend, and the heart shown does help paper over some cracks. Just not quite enough of them.
[This film will be released on January 25th in the US. For more information, visit MTI's website.]