August 1, 2010

Incestuous Pugilism

Day 10 of my justification of what is, quite possibly, the most intense man-crush in the history of man-crushes gets really absurd.

This may sound weird, but hitmen fascinate me. Well, hitmen as characters fascinate me; I don't know about the real people; I don't know any... I don't think. Anyway, contract killers as characters in film have always been interesting, and usually provide some seriously meaty substance. Pulp Fiction anyone? How bout' In Bruges? Ok, the point has been made. They usually make conflicted and complicated characters that we are continually invested in. Well, it would seem that these traits, or any traits that make up a good film, were deemed not necessary to add to the pot when creating Shadowboxer. This is a pretty terrible movie, and yet, I find myself, strangely, not hating it. This is a classic example of a film, so wonderfully over the top, so friggin' absurd, so unapologetically demented and insane, that a full lambasting would just seem like cruelty.

Creepiest! Affair! Ever!
So, the two hitmen in question have an... interesting relationship. Wait, no! That's putting it far too lightly! They have a seriously messed up relationship. Rose and Mikey are business partners. He's a good thirty years younger then her. She's his stepmother. They are sleeping together!

STOP! You have just made up your mind about this movie!

Still with me? Ok then! Rose and Mikey are given a job by enigmatic crime boss Clayton Mayfield. The job in question? Execute his wife, Vicki. Why? Beats me! Anyway, Rose discovers that Vicki is pregnant, and she's pretty far along. So far along in fact, that she gives birth in the middle of the hit, with Rose dropping her gun and becoming a surrogate nurse. Rose convinces Mikey that they should help Vicki care for the child. See, she's terminally ill with some type of cancer, and wants to go out of the world happy! Mikey's none too thrilled, but he goes along with it, being the good stepson/boy-toy that he his. Things happen!

This plot sucks! Really, it does! It provides zero incentive for the characters to act the way they do and leaves so many stones unturned. There is a staggering amount of stuff in this movie that is not explained. For example, Mikey is constantly seen practicing boxing. Why is he doing this? Does he have aspirations to win one of those huge belts one day? The movie doesn't even clue us in. Another example. Clayton is a pretty rich crime lord, but where does all the money come from? What sort of empire does he run? The movie never tells us. I could keep going... so I will! What the hell kind of doctor is the one here supposed to be? How do Mikey and Vicki suddenly become so attracted to each other? Why does Mickey suddenly start dancing for Rose out of the blue?WHY ARE ROSE AND MIKEY SLEEPING TOGETHER?


Cuba Gooding Jr. is Mikey. If he hoped that this would be the role to put him back on his Jerry Macguire pedestal, he was seriously mislead. He's is so one note throughout the entire thing, speaking every line of dialogue in the same, monotonous tone, adding zero emotion or interest to the role, that you begin to wonder why he even bothered to show up to work in the morning. He's supposed to be this intimidating killing machine, but, if I saw him the street, I wouldn't feel scared at all. I don't know if I'd feel anything.

Helen Mirren is Rose. She's just sort of there. It seems that Mirren wasn't interested or inspired by the material, so her performance just falls flat. It's not bad. It's just not good. It's far from the usual excellent work that we all know Mirren is capable of churning out. Same goes for Vanessa Ferlito as Vicki. She's not trying, and it is painfully obvious.

So, the leads are bad, but, thankfully, there are two supporting performances that provide some entertainment. First off, we have Stephen Dorff as crime boss Clayton. I loved him in this movie! He was witty, enigmatic, intimidating, and ruthless. And, as you will see in graphic detail, he practices safe sex. Good for him! And then there's Joseph Gordon-Levitt as, quite possibly, the world's worst doctor, who will inspect a bullet wound whilst chain smoking, and go down on a patient during her check up. JGL's hilarious in this role. He, at least, along with Dorff, has realized how friggin' ridiculous this movie is, and milks it for all it's worth! Thank God!


Director Lee Daniels is exceptionally talented! He showed us that much with his follow up to this, a little film called Precious. Perhaps you've heard of it. Anyway, he's not totally lost here, employing some cool camera tricks and utilizing some stylish cuts here and there! But, he has no idea what do with the script, which is a steaming pile of shite! It calls for so much ridiculous things that it is eventually impossible to take it seriously! There's a burial scene which is one of the most absurd things I've ever seen, and don't even get me started on the ending, which defies logic on so many different fronts! I HAVE FURY!

But, you know what? I don't hate this movie. I'm sorry, but I had a great time watching it! This is one of those, "so bad it's good" movies that you watch with a tight knit group of friends, so that you can have a merry old time shouting at the screen and performing the MST3K treatment on it. Aspects of this movie are so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh and point! There's a drinking game hidden in here somewhere. I just haven't found it yet!

Shadowboxer sucks, but I don't hate it. It's one of those movies where you can enjoy the awfulness and have a good time watching it. Two strong performances from Dorff and Gordon-Levitt don't hurt either. There are some aspects, incest and whatnot, that are simply too hard to get past, but, once you do, you'll find an absurdly good time to be had. 

Also, is it written in Lee Daniel's contract or something that he has to have a character named Precious in every single one of his movies? Just a thought...


  1. Ya, this movie is really bad which makes me wonder if Precious wasn't just some kind of fluke. I guess the third time will tell.

  2. This film is bad, and really over-the-top, but I thought it was at least entertaining. I laughed a lot, mostly cause it was just retarded, but Lee Daniels got very very lucky with Precious, although I didn't think it was as good as everybody said.

  3. The film has an odd charm to it, I am not quite sure what it is. Despite being a poor film overall, it has grown on me with each viewing (seen it twice now).

  4. This is forever that movie where everybody is paired like a bad fanfic.

  5. The film has an odd charm to it, I am not quite sure what it is. Despite being a poor film overall, it has grown on me with each viewing (seen it twice now).