In the latest of our regular polarising-opinion series, one TF writer argues that the boxing genre keeps throwing the same old punches.
Read on, then let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Is it is just me, or are all boxing movies basically the same? asks Paul Bradshaw
According to literary critic Christopher Booker, there are only seven basic plots in the world. Watch a boxing movie, and you’d think there’s only one. Good or bad, old or new, forgettable or Oscar-winning, with Stallone, Gyllenhaal, robots or a guy in a kangaroo costume – as soon as the first bell rings we know exactly what we’re going to get: a punch-drunk genre that keeps hitting us with the same old uppercuts.
Ever wanted to be a screenwriter? All you really need is HBO and a notebook. Open Act 1 with a hard-luck story: someone washed-up or down-and-out that needs an obvious metaphor to show us how much they’re willing to fight for in life. Have them take a beating in Act 2, throw in a grizzled trainer, a neglected personal relationship and a few wet sponges and you’re already vaulting the ropes for the big showdown.
Essentially the Schrödinger’s Cat of moviemaking, the final fight in a boxing movie only ever has two outcomes – and they’re both exactly the same. If the hero wins, he wins. If he loses, he still wins (even if he’s a she and she ends up asking Clint Eastwood to kill her), with sporting failure always framed as a triumph that tightens a big blingy belt of closure around everyone’s personal problems.
Blame Raging Bull or Rocky or whoever you like – but there’s no other genre that remains so doggedly resistant to change and still gets such an easy time from the audience. Maybe it’s because everyone loves an underdog story. Maybe it’s because it’s fun to watch people getting hit in the face.
Last year’s Creed was brilliant – but it was the /seventh/ time the same story had been told. Southpaw offered up some decent performances, but was it really that different from Cinderella Man, The Champ or… Creed? Critics lambast Marvel for sticking to the same basic formula every summer, but there’s a big difference between basic formulas and endless repetition.
Predictability should be the enemy of filmmakers as well as audiences, and boxing has been /done/. The best examples of the genre (Raging Bull, The Harder They Fall, Rocco And His Brothers, The Fighter, On The Waterfront) are actually, genuinely, about something else.
If you still want to write a boxing movie, rewatch every Rocky film (Creed included). If you find something that hasn’t already been said or done or punched, go ahead. But if you find yourself writing the words, “cut to a training montage”, please, get out of the ring. The boxing genre is KO… or is it just me?
Agree? Disagree? Have your say below?