cast Ving Rhames, Stacey Dash, Nicholas Turturro
director Robert Townsend
Set in the 1950s, this is a touching tale of how an African American fights against all odds to win the world heavyweight boxing championship. Sonny Liston isn’t the crowd favourite; the prejudice of others and his fiery temper don’t gain him approval.
But this beefy boxer isn’t deterred and is a complete knock-out in the ring. His agent Cesar packages him well and helps him move up the ladder. From grim prison walls, where a priest spots his true strength, to his journey to the boxing world, we see Sonny in different shades throughout the film. Despite the tough exterior, he has a soft spot for romance, marrying his ladylove Geraldine.
But his career slides downhill after a torrid dalliance with a woman who’s off limits, and then Cassius Clay (aka Mohammad Ali) delivers the infamous ‘phantom punch’ in the ring. Sonny’s career, and life, never recover.
Rhames plays the passionate boxer to perfection. And the swift shifts from ‘vintage’ frames to colour are an aesthetic portrayal of the timeline. This is a must-see for any boxing enthusiast.
Sneha May Francis
Published in e+, Gulf News 03.09.09