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Directed by Lee Daniels.
Written by William Lipz.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Helen Mirren, Vanessa Ferlito and Stephen Dorff.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  7/19/06


Free keeps coming right at me, and in the case of "Shadowboxer", the cast and the setup alone guaranteed that I would check this one out:  a hitman named Mikey (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his partner Rose (Helen Mirren, the 60-something former Oscar nominee!!) try to complete the hit of a crime boss's wife (Vanessa Ferlito, who was on "24" a couple seasons back) but can't...because the wife's pregnant!  And suddenly, they have a conscience!  You know that eventually, the crime boss (Stephen Dorff) is going to come after these guys...right?

Directed by Lee Daniels, who had a hand in "Monster's Ball", "Shadowboxer" is easily some of the most random shit in a film this year.  Whether it's up-and-comer Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Brick") as a white on-the-take mob doctor that dabbles in sex with large black women (in this case, Mo'Nique), or a bevy of death and strong violence--including a pool cue in the ass--or a hitman that moves to the suburbs and enjoys playing with Legos with his kid, the film keeps you awake, that's for sure.  The storyline of Mikey and Rose and their strange relationship kind of freaked me out a little bit, and I think the same can be said for our sold-out audience, since about a dozen people walked out of this thing.  (Well, the Mikey/Rose thing, and a random shot of Dorff's Dong kind of got me, happily jimmied up as he bangs the living hell out of a prostitute.)

The film is interesting, but never THAT interesting; I liked the Gooding performance (a model of restraint, after a number of roles that have him jumping all over the place) and Dorff is Dorff as the bad guy...he's easily one of the worst actors available, but in a film where Macy Gray goes out of her fucking way to underperform, Dorff might have a shot at an Oscar here.

(Note: Ross and I walked out of the theater and both of us were stunned at two things.  First, how bad Gray looks in this film.  And second, while I'm okay with her music, she needs to hang it up when it comes to acting.  She is INSTANTLY a candidate for Worst Performance at next year's, she is bad.  I was waiting for her to get killed off every second she was on film.)

The violence does feel unnecessary at times, but you'll take a guy getting a pool cue in the ass over one of the sex scenes in this film, which some people will think is a brilliant counterprogramming move...but, not me.  My skin was crawling when our two hit-heroes are about to get it on...oh boy, I was uncomfortable during that moment.  I was actually hoping that somebody else might lose a finger or get blown away before I had to watch another one of those bad boys!  The strengths of the film lie in the developing, distant relationship between Mikey, Rose, the mob guy's wife and her newborn son, who we watch over the period of many years settle into a comfortable life on the run together.  (No, I don't get that either.)  You know how it is:  leave house, kill three people, come home, fix dinner, go through flash cards with seven-year-old.  No lie, this is "Shadowboxer" in a nutshell!

Well, the film is worth seeing, because it is so damned weird.  Wow, so random...

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09