In 1929, James J. Braddock (Crowe) was a contender for the
Heavy Weight Title but this was before the Great Depression hit. Four years
later he was fighting injured in $50 bouts, trying to keep his family in
food. When his manager Joe Gould (Giamatti) arranges for him to replace
an injured boxer to fight the current number one contended, Braddock uses
his current plight to motivate himself to win the fight. His sheer determination
wins through and he instantly becomes a hero to the millions of people suffering
at the hands of the Depression.
Director Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe work together again
but can this story of a boxing legend bring them more awards?
The name James J. Braddock might not be very well known outside
of the United States but his story is one of the greats tales in sport.
This was a man who had had his boxing licence revoked by the US Boxing Commission
after fighting injured for far too many bouts. He had lost everything in
the Great Depression and he and his family were struggling, living on the
breadline. The time away from boxing gave his injures time to heal however
and working on the New Jersey docks made him fit again, so when his manager
got him another shot, Braddock was a whole new fighter.
It was Braddock's story of determination and guts that endeared
him to the radio listening public. He was an everyman, fighting for the
downtrodden and the poor and making them believe in the American dream again.
It was a fairy tale in sport that his man could make such a comeback that
he would have a shot at the Heavy Weight Championship of the World, to the
point that the media labelled him the 'Cinderella Man'.
The gladiatorial confrontation of a boxing match has always
been an enduring subjects for movies, with many a classic gracing the silver
screen driven by this most violent of sports. What makes 'Cinderella Man'
slightly different from the many films that have preceded it is the human
element of the story. It isn't Braddock's exploits in the ring that drive
the film; it is what he is fighting for that draws you into the character.
When you see what his family and friends are going through and the fact
that he is bringing hope to a nation that is on its knees, this is much
more than a boxing movie but a film about desperate time that needed a hero.
Bringing the movie to life are three exquisite performances
from the main leads. Russell Crowe proves again that he is one of the most
talented actors working in cinema today. He brings a warmth and determination
to James J. Braddock making the character easy to get behind. Braddock is
a man of principle and honour both in and out of the ring and Crowe instils
this in the character with consummate skill and passion. Paul Giamatti is
superb as manager Joe Gould. One of the best character actors working in
Hollywood today, Giamatti is an expert at creating memorable characters
that light up the screen every time he graces it. Brilliant at drama and
throwing in the odd comedic line, Giamatti's Joe Gould is another classic
creation by this consummate actor. Renée Zellweger continues to impress
as Braddock's wife Mae. While this maybe a slight clichéd role for boxing
movies, the wife who doesn't want her husband to box, it is in the more
dramatic moments dealing with the family's poverty that Zellweger really
comes into her own.
Director Ron Howard is really growing into a multi-skilled
filmmaker that can handle any genre. We all know that he can handle the
human drama of the story but it is in the direction of the fight scenes
where the film excels. Howard and his filmmaking team really take you into
the fight. The camera is the fighter as well as the spectator, as we see
what the boxer would see in the first person as he shows the blurred vision
and the punches coming into Braddock. This style of photography makes the
audience feel like they are actually part of the film and makes each bout
'Cinderella Man' is a brilliantly acted and superbly shot
film. While it might be slightly overlong, dwell too much on Braddock's
poverty and not really support Paddy Considine's story enough, this is still
a tremendous movie about hope and the power of sport to bring a lift even
during the hardest of times.
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1, the
movie is presented extremely well, showcasing the excellent way that Ron
Howard and his filmmaking team have captured the era.
Disc 1 (Side A)
Feature Commentary with Director Ron Howard
The man behind the helm provides an informative track for 'Cinderella
Man'. He reveals how he became involved with the movie and his memories
of James J. Braddock from stories from his father. He talks about recreating
the era, covering the Great Depression and Braddock's fall and rise to
greatness. This is a good track from a very accomplished director who
is always worth listening to.
Feature Commentary with Writer Akiva Goldsman
The screenwriter talks about making this modern day fairytale to the silver
screen. He reveals how he became involved and how the script was developed
into the final version. He also talks about how the story is one of hardship
to redemption with characters you can easily connect with.
Feature Commentary with Writer Cliff Hollingsworth
The writer of the original screenplay talks about how it developed from
the one he wrote back in 1994. He reveals how he talked and liased with
the Braddock family and the input they gave to his research. He talks
about the changes from his original drafts and the amount of dramatic
licence the film used throughout the movie.
Disc 1 (Side B)
Deleted Scenes (20.58 mins)
With optional commentary by director Ron Howard, these six deleted show
more of the character development of the movie. Here we see more of Jim
Braddock, his family and Joe Gould before The Great Depression, Braddock
working, the problems with his broken hand and the desperation he goes
through during that time of little.
The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man (22.56 mins)
Director Ron Howard, producer Brian Glazer, casting director Jane Jenkins
and stars Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko,
Paddy Considine and Rosemarie DeWitt talk about the characters of the
real life story of James J. Braddock. With footage of the man and his
family from 1930s, Ron Howard and his creative team choose actors that
would fit the real life people they are going to play.
The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A filmmaking journey (14.00 mins)
Director Ron Howard, producers Brian Glazer and Penny Marshall, screenwriter
Akiva Goldsman, director of photography Salvatore Totino, production designer
Wynn Thomas, costume designer Daniel Orlandi, executive producer Todd
Hallowell and stars Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger talk about bringing
James J. Braddock's story to the silver screen. Ron Howard and his filmmaking
team talk about recreating the 1930s Great Depression New York setting
in modern Toronto, with Madison Square Garden and the other main locations
of the shoot been vividly and authentically recreated. We also see how
the locations and costumes were created to take you back to the 1930s.
For the Record: The History of Boxing (6.37 mins)
Director Ron Howard, boxing consultant Angelo Dundee and boxing trainer
Wayne Gordon talk about training Russell Crowe to be like a 1930s boxer.
Ringside Seats (9.09mins)
Director Ron Howard, producer Brian Glazer, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
and novelist Norman Mailer watch and analyse rounds 1, 8, 9 and 15 of
the actual Braddock vs. Baer fight.
Jim Braddock: The friends and family behind the legend (11.10 mins)
Director Ron Howard, Braddock's son Howard Braddock, granddaughter Rosemarie
DeWitt and grandson Tim Braddock talk about the former heavyweight champion
career and their relationship with him. With actual footage of Jim and
May, we find out what the man and his family were really like.
Additional Deleted Scenes (15.20 mins)
With optional commentary by director Ron Howard, these ten additional
deleted scenes show more of Jim and his family during the depression and
more of the final fight with Max Baer.
Russell Crowe's Personal Journey: Becoming Jim Braddock (27.49 mins)
At his training camp in Australia, Russell Crowe records a video diary
about his preparations for shooting 'Cinderella Man'. With contributions
from fight trainer Angelo Dundee, stunt coordinator Steve Lucescu, trainer
Mark Carroll and fellow fighters Mark Simmons, Troy Amos-Ross, Art Binkowski
and Thomasz Kurzydlowski, we see what Russell had to go through to get
ready for the demanding fight scenes in the movie. It also reveals the
injuries he suffered during his preparation and what he had to do to get
ready for the role.
Lights, Camera, Action: The Fight from Every Angle (21.23 mins)
Director Ron Howard, director of photography Salvatore Totino, editors
Dan Hanley and Mike Hill, stunt coordinator Steve Lucescu and stars Russell
Crowe, Craig Bierko, Mark Simmons, Troy Amos-Ross, Art Binkowski and Thomasz
Kurzydlowski talk about creating the fights for the movie. The Corn Griffin,
John Henry Lewis, Art Lasky and the Max Baer fights are discussed as the
fighters playing the roles real how they prepared to imitate the 1930s
style of fighting. Photo Montage Behind the scenes and production stills
from 'Cinderella Man'
The Sound of the Bell (6.21 mins)
Director Ron Howard and composer Thomas Newman talks about creating a
score that would be evocative of the era. Newman also reveals how he writes
music for films and his inspiration for the score.
Human Face of the Depression (6.00 mins)
Director Ron Howard, producer Brian Glazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
talk about the impact of the Great Depression on the Braddock family,
his career and the people of New York.
Music Featurette (2.12 mins)
Composer Thomas Newman talks about determining when music is needed and
how this relates to 'Cinderella Man'.
Pre-Fight Preparations (22.14 mins)
Director Ron Howard, writer Cliff Hollingsworth, producer Penny Marshall,
screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, production designer Wynn Thomas, location
manager Keith Large, executive producer Todd Hallowell, producer Brian
Glazer, fight advisor Angelo Dundee, director of photography Salvatore
Totino and stars Russell Crowe, come together to talk the aspects of 'Cinderella
Man'. Split into four parts entitled 'Focus on the Script', 'Creating
the Reality', 'Russell's transformation' and 'Inflatable People', the
featurettes show how the film came together.
Braddock vs. Baer: Fight Footage (31.58 mins)
Watch the original June 13th 1935 footage of the James J. Braddock vs.
Max Baer fight and see how actuate Ron Howard and his filmmakers were
in recreating the fight for the Heavyweight crown.
Universal has done an exceptional job with the Collectors Edition of
'Cinderella Man'. The featurettes cover every aspect of the film production
with 'Russell Crowe's Personal Journey: Becoming Jim Braddock' been a
real highlight. Fans of the movie should rejoice, as this is one of the
best DVD releases for some time.