Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by:Cliff Hollingsworth, Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill
Released: September 29, 2005
Grade: A-

New York, 1929.  Boxer Jim Braddock (Crowe) is sweeping all before him in the boxing ring.  He was never been knocked out in the ring and the lucrative prize money is being invested on the stock market to help provide a future for his wife Mae (Zellweger) and their three children.

New York, 1934.  The Great Depression has swept America and Jim Braddock has hit rock bottom.  Injuries have destroyed his boxing career and his finances have disappeared into thin air.  The family now live in a tiny, rundown apartment and there isn’t even enough money to pay the electricity bill.

People love a rags to riches story and the title Cinderella Man should give an indication of what comes next.  On just 24 hours notice, agent Joe Gould (Giamatti) has landed Jim a one-off fight against a leading contender.  The $250 cheque would help pay off his outstanding debts and give Jim a final fight to close out his career.

No one expected him to win but somehow, he did.  Jim Braddock wasn’t finished yet.  This was the just the start of a monumental comeback.  More victories followed and people were talking.  Could he possibly be the one to defeat world heavyweight champion, Max Baer (Bierko)?  On June 13, 1935 at New York City’s Garden Bowl, the two would meet in one of boxing’s most anticipated battles…

Based on a true story, Cinderella Man sees director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) choreographing some incredibly realistic boxing scenes.  I was sweating during the finale as the two prized fighters beat the living hell out of each other.  I don’t know if they were actually hitting each other but it sure looked like it.

What I enjoyed most about the film was its simplicity.  There aren’t any real bad guys or good guys – just desperate people trying to stay afloat in hard times.  The screenwriters haven’t included too many unrelated subplots or tried to make the story too unbelievable.  I can’t say it’s a 100% accurate account of what really happened but it feels true.

Russell Crowe gives another amazing performance but unfortunately for the makers of Cinderella Man, many have attributed the poor U.S. box-office has been attributed to his bad reputation following the “phone throwing” incident back in June 2005.  He may not have the greatest sense of self control but he’s a hell of a good actor.  There are few actors in the world today who can match his recent resume of quality films which include The Insider, A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator and Master & Commander.  Paul Giamatti also stands out in a role which is tipped to earn him a supporting actor nod at next year’s Oscars.  I sure hope he does because he’s an extremely talented actor who too often goes unnoticed.

We don’t usually see films of an Oscar calibre at this time of the year so if you haven’t been turned off the brutality of boxing after Million Dollar Baby, here’s a film which outshines most everything else currently showing.  Emotional drama at its finest!